Snowed In!

by Peter Conrad

Part 4


And someone says herding fleas was difficult! A whole bag of these beasts could not be more difficult to control than a handful of kids.

You really want to study something in education, Jasmin?"

Yeah, why?"

Wordlessly, I pointed to the kids who were throwing snowballs at each other, soaping each other up with snow, chasing the dog around, and generally making a huge hullabaloo.

Hehe, let them be. The more energy they blow during the day now, the easier it'll be for us to tuck them into bed or sleeping bags at night."

Hmm. That was probably true. And when I looked at how the five of them were still romping around, even though we had already been out in the snow for almost a whole hour and were already approaching the cabin again, I realized that we still had a lot to do in the afternoon.

We had turned a comfortable round through the snowy winter forest. Okay, the " comfortable" only referred to Jasmin and me! We had gotten used to walking through the deep snow, we could manage without snowshoes. But now we were really getting hungry, and I could only hope that Fabian and Jonas had actually used the time alone for cooking and not for any other things! In this respect I didn't really trust the two of them.

But my worries turned out to be unfounded, when we entered the cabin, the table was already completely set, and as soon as we got rid of our warm clothes, we could start eating. As expected, it did not take long, and everything that the two master chefs had served had dissolved into nothing.

The question of how to continue the day was also quickly answered, so that after the meal some quiet returned. Jasmin and the girls took care of the dishes, the rest of us spread out on the couch, and only Patrick hurriedly disappeared into his room again. I could only wonder about him. Outside in the snow he had been almost as happy and wild as the others, had even participated in building snowmen - but in here he isolated himself again and sought the solitude of his single room. No idea how to figure this one out…

The walk seemed to have exerted me more than I had thought, I must have fallen asleep and was only woken up again by Jonas, who shook me lightly by the shoulder.

Yes… yawn… what is it?"

It's almost two, break's over!"

How mean. Just a moment ago I had been having such a nice dream. I had no idea what it was about, but I was sure it had been a nice dream. And what was it that was lying so heavily on top of me?

You can wake up my sister, too."

Jonas' sister? I cautiously turned my head and realized that it was she who was half on top of me and asleep. So THIS was a burden I was happy to put up with, of course!

While Jonas was now moving away again, I gently stroked Jasmin's face, which she answered first with a slight twitch, then with carefully opening eyes and a smile.

What's wrong, Reiko?"

Nothing's wrong, your brother just woke me up, he said it was time to get up again."

Oh. Yeah, I asked him to do that in case we fell asleep."

Why did you do that. Everything's so nice and quiet right now."

The four younger children all seemed to be asleep, Arko was dozing off, Fabian was browsing through a book, and Jonas was just getting something to drink.

Shouldn't we let them sleep while they're so peaceful?"

Nah, we better don't! If we let them sleep now, we won't get any peace at all in the gang tonight. No time to be tired for us. We'll get dressed, then wake up the kids, and then we'll go out in the snow again!"

All right. Better to do something now than to have to deal with a bunch of whining kids in the evening who all don't want to go to bed.

We got up quietly, curiously eyed by Arko, who probably liked this whole adventure the most of all of us. So many people who played with him, cuddled him and showered him with attention he rarely experienced in one place!

We got dressed, woke up the kids one by one, and twenty minutes later the whole team was standing outside in the snow. Fabian had conjured up some snow shovels, and soon we were all busy building two snow castles at once! Why two? Quite simply, the little ones had decided that they wanted to have a competition for the best castle. So on one side the two girls worked, on the other the three boys. And since we " adults" couldn't just stand around doing nothing, I joined the boys with Jasmin, while Fabian and Jonas helped the girls. In the ever decreasing snowfall, the walls of our castles climbed ceaselessly upwards….

Jasmin? Why were you lying on top of me like that earlier?"

Not that I would complain, but I had not expected something like that.

Mischievously, she grinned at me.

I needed a place to sleep, and you looked so inviting and cozy."

Hehe, no one had ever called me cozy before.

Why do you ask, did it make you uncomfortable?"

No, it just surprised me a little."

Why does that surprise you? You're such a snuggly guy."

I had to listen twice. Was Jasmin flirting with me now? And did I actually want her to do that ?

My train of thought on the subject was abruptly interrupted when a snowball nearly knocked my beanie off my head. While I was still looking around for the source of the projectile, more snowballs were already hailing down on our team. Someone had declared war on us!

Who this someone was did not remain hidden from us for long, the cheering of Manuela and Ricarda spoke volumes! But what they could do, we could do too, and shortly thereafter a real snowball fight was underway. Snow bullets whizzed through the air, those who got hit cursed, accurate shooters cheered, and in the middle of it all Arko raged through the snow barking and trying to intercept the flying snowballs.

The battle surged back and forth, and just as I was about to retaliate against Manuela for a hit, I noticed someone pulling me by the sleeve.

Shhh. Reiko."

I turned to Jasmin.

Come on, let's let the kids burn off some steam on their own."

We can't leave our three boys here to their fate and enemy superiority!"

Look over there."

Jasmin directed my gaze away from the fighting, and lo and behold! Jonas and Fabian had moved away from the scene of war already and were leaning against a tree making out! Well, in that case we might as well retreat, too. I followed Jasmin towards the cabin, where I freed a log from the snow and sat on it. Invitingly, I pointed to my lap.

Come, sit."

Carefully, Jasmin settled on me, and my arms encircled her.

Does this bother you?"


My arms."

Nah, leave them where they are, at least I won't slide down."

That, and ONLY that, had been my motivation for my arms around her. What? Unbelievable? Bah!

Silently we watched the kids in their snow war. Either they hadn't noticed that we older ones had retreated, or they didn't care. After a while Christoph and Felix started to storm the castle of the girls, Patrick didn't seem to participate for the sake of fairness. While the fighting shifted to Manuela and Ricarda, Patrick knocked the snow off his clothes and slowly came strolling towards the cabin. Suddenly he stopped as if rooted to the spot, stared for a moment in the direction of the older boys still making out wildly, then stormed into the cabin, slamming the door behind him.

Jasmin gave a deep sigh.

Not again! Just now I was going to say that the boy seems to be catching on, but I guess I rejoiced too soon. If only I knew what exactly is wrong with him!"

These words could have come from me as well, and to be honest: I was finally fed up with this guy!

Jasmin, let me get up please."

What are you up to, Reiko?"

I'm at the end of my patience, I'm going to get to the bottom of this now! And if I have to sit on him and starve him out: I'm going to find out why he's making such a drama."

Actually, I expected the budding educator to try to talk me out of this plan, but Jasmin stood up without a murmur.

Maybe you're right. Maybe a man-to-man talk would help, since he didn't want to talk to me. Maybe you'll manage to do what neither his parents nor I have managed so far."

I will do my best. And believe me, I can be VERY persuasive!"

Good luck then, Reiko. It would be better for all of us if the matter was finally settled."

With a determined stride, I followed Patrick into the cabin. The teenager was nowhere to be seen, only his boots were next to the door, so he had probably already adjourned to his room. I got rid of the warm clothes, then went into the lion's den. Without knocking, I entered the small bedroom.

Sure enough, there was Patrick lying on the bed in full gear.

Will you tell me what that was all about now?"

Oh leave me alone!"

No, I won't! You won't leave us alone with your mood swings and freak-outs either! I finally want to know what makes you tick off like that all the time!"

You have to ask?"

Well, okay, one thing I already knew: the occasion was probably always situations in which he became aware of Fabian and Jonas being gay. But that was still no explanation for WHY he freaked out in those situations.

Yeah, I have to ask. Does it really bother you that much that Fabian and Jonas are gay?"

So, I had said the g-word. Let's see if maybe I finally managed to get to the real cause of the boys problem.

Doesn't that bother you?"

Ah. The first answer that didn't consist of pure rejection.

No. Why should it bother me?"

Because… Because gay guys are always on the prowl for guys! They want to get into bed with everyone!"

Well, for a while I had believed that too, but I had been objective enough a few years ago to realize that this wasn't the case.

Oh nonsense. Gays are just like us, there are such and such. Some want to have sex all the time with every man that's not up in a tree in time - the others want the man for life. Just like with straight men. With Jonas and Fabian you don't have to worry at all that they want something from you, they are only busy with themselves anyway. You've seen that for yourself."


You really think all the gays would be after you?"

They are just like Arne!"

Wait a minute. Now I had to be very careful. I was on to some hot thing, probably the reason for Patrick's strange behavior. But I didn't have a clue yet what I would discover. Some Arne was after him sexually? Who was this Arne? Was I possibly even stumbling upon a case of abuse here?

Patrick, who is Arne?"

The boy was about to close himself off to me again, I couldn't let that happen now!

Did this Arne do something to you?"

He kissed me!"

Patrick literally screamed it out. Okay, back to the other question.

And who is Arne?"

The boy turned on his back, sat up and clutched his knees with his arms.

Arne is… Arne WAS my best friend."

His best friend? Well then, at least it couldn't be some adult who had made a pass at him.

I see, and this Arne kissed you. Did he do anything else?"


Getting the truth out of Patrick was a slow crawl.

And that's why you're freaking out? Just because he kissed you?"

Yes! No!"

Well, what now? Yes or no?"

Yes, kind of."

I sighed. Now here I stand, poor fool, and I'm as smart as I was before.

Tell me the whole story from the beginning, so far I have no idea what really happened. So this Arne is… pardon: was… your best friend. And then what happened?"

We were skating together. After a while we took a break and sat down on a bench. Suddenly he started saying that he had something important to tell me. I was his best friend and all. Well, and then he told me that he was gay!"

That seemed to have hit Patrick out of the blue.

So what?"

And then he confessed to me that he had fallen in love with me. With me! But I'm not gay!"

Well, this Arne wasn't the first guy to fall in love with the wrong person.

And then he kissed me. Just like that!"

And what did you do?"

I slapped him and ran away! I'm not a fag!"

Ohoh, a real teen drama unfolded before my eyes.

Okay, I get that now, you're not gay. Arne is, though, and it's no more his fault than it is yours that you like girls."

Annoyed, Patrick stared at the ceiling.

Yeah, I know! Still!"

When did this happen?"

Two months ago."

It had been that long?

And what happened after that? Did you guys talk it out?"

Nah. Arne tried to talk to me a couple of times, I guess he wanted to apologize, but I just can't handle it!"

You can't handle what? The fact that he's gay, or the fact that he fell in love with you?"

Both. Well. Actually, mostly with the fact that he fell in love with me."

What exactly bothers you about that? Think of it as a compliment. I'm sure he'll accept that you're just not into guys and he doesn't stand a chance with you."

Yeah, well… But… But I keep thinking… Well…"

Okay, he had to take that last step now.

What do you keep thinking?"

Well… I… I keep having this image in my head of him jerking off while thinking about me!"

I couldn't help it, I had to laugh softly. Poor worried guy….

And that would be so bad?"

Yeah sure it would! That's gross!"

Little kids - little worries. Big kids…

Tell me, Patrick, do you have a girlfriend?"

No, not yet."

But there must be a girl you like, right?"

Slightly bashful, he grinned at me.

Yeah, there's this one in my class…. Chiara."

You like her? You'd like to have her as girlfriend? Are you in love with her?"


Does she know that too?"

I think so…"

And how does she behave toward you? I mean, does she insult you? Does she make a fool of you? Does she find you disgusting?"

Uh… No. Why would she?"

Well, you insult Arne, find him disgusting…"

But that's totally different!"

Is it? Now be honest: haven't you ever thought about that Chiara when you're jerking off?"


Patrick, please be honest!"

His head turned red, and he stared down at the bed.

Okay, I admit it. But this is totally different."

Why? You're in love with Chiara - Arne is in love with you. What's the difference? Just because Arne is also a boy, it doesn't make it gross or anything."

Doubtingly, Patrick looked at me.

Wouldn't you mind if Fabian used you as a jerk-off template?"

Interesting question!



Let me finish! I admit it would seem weird to me at the first moment, but I guess I could handle it. Apart from that, I don't think I'd have any chance of getting into Fabian's mind again! He has Jonas for that now."

Now Patrick smiled, too, and I could understand a little bit how this Arne could have a crush on him. He really was a cute boy.

That's right, those two are totally into each other."

He could say that again.

And you think I should just accept it with Arne?"

He was your best friend, right?"

Yes, he was…"

Then the answer should be clear, shouldn't it?"

Yes, but what if he tries to kiss me again. Or tries something else!"

Then you tell him that you're sorry, that you do want him as a friend, but just as a normal friend, nothing more. He'll just have to accept that. Even if it hurts him at first."

Patrick thought hard for a while, then looked at me.

I acted like an idiot, didn' t I? "

I had to grin.

Do you want the honest answer or the nice one?"

The honest one."

Okay. Yeah, you did."

Shit… I have some people to apologize to, I guess."

You should probably do that. To Arne. To your parents. To Jonas and Fabian."

All right, all right, I get it."

This was too good to be true.

Great. Now does that mean that for the rest of the time we're stuck here together, we're only going to have to deal with the nice, cheerful Patrick that sometimes flashed through the whole bad boy business?"

A sheepish smile played around Patrick's lips.

I'll try. I promise, Reiko."

Good! Okay, I'm going to join the others again. Are you coming back out too?"

No, I think I'll stay here for a bit. I have some things to think about."

Do that, you should be quite busy doing that. But if you're going to stay inside, get out of those warm clothes."

I will, Dad."

Now don't get smart with me, little boy!"

I went to the door of the room, but was stopped again.

Reiko? "

Yes? "

Could you tell Jonas and Fabian all this…"

Actually, he'd better do it himself, but I didn't want to burden him even more. His confession to me was hard enough for him.

Okay. But you'll have to apologize yourself!"

I will, I promise. And thank you, Reiko. For everything."

It's okay, kiddo."

As I left Patrick's room and headed back out into the snow, I felt better than I had in a long time….


The snowball fight was at its hottest when Jonas and I sort of ducked out the back door, leaving the playing field completely to the younger guys. We rather immersed ourselves in some… ahem… more adult games.

What can I say, it was heavenly. But it would have been even more heavenly if there hadn't been such a stupid branch constantly pressing into my back. That was the reason why I reluctantly pushed Jonas away from me after a few minutes.

Sorry, I can't do it anymore."

Cheekily, my beloved grinned at me.

Did I wear you out like that?"

Dream on, sweetie. I've got such a stupid branch in my back, it's killing me."

Jonas seemed a little disappointed!

Alright, let's go see what the others are doing."

The others were still throwing snowballs at each other, but the boys were just about to storm the girls' castle. Jasmin was sitting on a wooden peg next to the door of the cabin, and there was no sign of Reiko or Patrick. We wandered over to Jonas' sister.

Well, Jasmin, did you slip away too?"

Yes, I did, brother dear. After you had deserted the fight so shamelessly, we couldn't continue to participate, otherwise it would have been too unfair."

They should be glad that we had given them a reason to break off the fight.

Where did Reiko go?"

He's trying to squeeze out of Patrick what his problem is."

Patrick? What was wrong with him now!

What happened, sis?"

You happened."

Huh? What did she mean with that? How had we happened? Jasmin correctly interpreted the question marks on our faces.

Patrick saw you guys kissing again and he freaked out. He ran into the cabin and slammed the door behind him - it's a wonder you guys didn't catch that. Although. Scratch that. A jet plane could probably have taken off next to you and you wouldn't have noticed."

Were we really that bad already?

And Reiko went after him?"

Yes, he must have finally run out of patience, he said that he would get to the bottom of it now, by whatever means necessary."

Poor Patrick."

The siblings looked at me, puzzled.

Why poor Patrick?"

Jonas, when Reiko sets his mind to something, he follows through. Whatever is responsible for Patrick going off the rails, Reiko will figure it out. For good or for bad."

Is he going to hurt him?"

No, Jasmin, at least not physically."

Good, then I'm reassured. While I'd also like things to finally be resolved with Patrick, violence just isn't acceptable."

Don't worry, Reiko is not capable of that."

Reiko was at most capable of spanking ME, he would never do that to a child. Even if the child was annoying as much as Patrick!

For a while we watched the kids who were now fighting in the snow. The boys had conquered the castle of the girls, and now all rolled laughing through the white splendor. Thank goodness for waterproof snow suits!

Come on, Faby, let's go build a snowman!"

Gee, Jonas, haven't you had enough to do with snow today already ? "

Nah, I can't get enough of snow. We rarely get any of that in Leipzig, this is just beautiful!"

He was still a real kid himself! Well. I actually enjoyed winter and snow, too, even though I was used to it. So I didn't let him beg me for long, and shortly after we were busy building the most beautiful gay snowman in the world. Or at least in Europe. The most beautiful in Germany? What, just the most beautiful one in our county? My God, how can you be so picky! And anyway, who actually decides that! But surely not the overcritical reader here!

Fabian, Jonas, can you come over here?"

Our heads jerked to the entrance of the cabin. Reiko was out again! Now I was extremely curious about what had come out of his meeting with Patrick. Would we finally find out what the boys problem was? Maybe there even would be a chance for lasting peace with the terror dwarf? Jonas seemed to be at least as excited as I was, I could hardly keep up with him on his sprint to Reiko and Jasmin.

Well, did you get anything out of him?"

Yes, Faby, I did. I guess the matter is settled, I think we won't have any more problems with Patrick."

That sounded almost too good to be true. I couldn't really trust the peace so fast.

Shoot, what did he tell you?"

Wait a minute, Jonas, not so fast. Maybe Reiko isn't allowed to tell us any more."

That would be a shame!

No problem, he even asked me to explain it to you."

There you go!

In short: Patrick had a best friend, Arne. And this Arne is gay."

Well, that's supposed to happen now and then. Just think Reiko and Fabian. So what was the problem?

Arne fell in love with Patrick."

Ouch! At least that didn't happen to me with Reiko.

But our Patrick doesn't like boys, he likes girls."

Poor Arne! Whereas: the way I had gotten to know Patrick so far, I could also say: lucky Arne!

Stupidly, Arne didn't have his hormones completely under control and kissed Patrick."

Oh dear. Kissing a straight guy, that had to go wrong!

Long story short: Patrick couldn't cope with the fact that his previous best friend was suddenly making a pass at him. He had the wildest ideas about what Arne would possibly do to him in his imagination etc. etc. To make matters worse, he then extended this to all gays, according to the scheme that they all only want one thing. Namely him."


Instead of talking it out with Arne, he completely shut himself off, didn't talk to anyone about it and got more and more into this madness."

And he told you all that now?"

Yes, Jasmin, he did. It actually wasn't that hard, deep down inside he probably wanted just that: to talk to someone about it."

And, Reiko, where you able get his thoughts straight ? "

I think so, Fabian."

How did you manage that?"

That, my dear Jasmin, is my secret, and besides, not meant for girls' ears anyway!"

Jonas' little sister pulled a pout, but Reiko didn't relent.

Just assume that Patrick is thinking a bit more clearly now and won't cause such stress anymore."

If that actually came to pass, then I wouldn't care about how Reiko had managed that at all.

So, I see a snowman that's not quite done yet. Do you guys mind if I help out a little?"

Yes, Reiko, you can't help with that one! That's our snowman! Besides, he's not for you anyway, he's gay!"

Jasmin and Reiko laughed.

Well, then I'll just build my own snowman with Jasmin! Come on, we'll show the loverboys how to do it RIGHT!"

Such a challenge, of course, we could not disregard, and so it came that after half an hour two cold fellows were standing next to each other. And we could not agree on, of course, which of the two looked better.

Ours is more beautiful, there's no question about that!"

Dream on, sis. Compared to ours, it's just average at best, while ours is a real piece of art!"

I'll turn your face into a real piece of art, big brother!"

How cutely the siblings bickered! I looked over at Reiko, who could only laugh at that too.

Guys, I have an idea, we'll let the kids decide which snowman is prettier!"

Good suggestion, Fabian. We should start calling them together anyway, we've really been out here long enough now."

It was actually after four, it was already getting dark, and I was in the mood for a nice glass of Christmas tea.

Jasmin called the kids together, who had been working on their castles again in the meantime.

Listen, I think that's enough for today. You've been outside long enough, it's about time you get warmed up, it's getting dark anyway."

The grumbling was pretty low, they must have been quite beat after all that fun in the snow.

But before we go in, you have an important decision to make. So please take a look at these two snowmen and tell us which one you like better."

The four of them eyed our snow figures curiously and from all sides, but unfortunately didn't come to a conclusion that would have help us out. The boys liked the snowman of Jonas and me better, the girls were more into the work of Jasmin and Reiko.

Well, a classic draw. I guess there's not supposed to be a winner."

Jasmin pondered for a moment.

We could still ask Patrick, then we would have a decision one way or the other."

Oh no, Patrick is stupid, he'd just spread bad vibes again anyway."

Chris, I think the problem is solved. Reiko had a long talk with him earlier, and he says that Patrick has come to his senses."

I don't know… he was just annoying the whole time."

He certainly was, but still….

Guys, everyone deserves a second chance, including Patrick. So please give him that second chance, okay?"

I received a quiet but general agreement, and sent a silent prayer to heaven that peace would finally come to our cabin.

All right, let Patrick decide. Should I go get him?"

Reiko stopped Felix from rushing into the cabin.

No, leave him be, Patrick still needs a little time to think. He can still look at the snowmen tomorrow."

So the decision about who would be Mr. Snowman of the World was postponed for the time being. Whereas the decision was actually quite clear - the girls and Reiko just didn't want to admit it yet!

Have you actually noticed something?"

Lots of questioning faces looked to Jasmin.


It's not snowing anymore!"

Indeed! What had started as a rather dense snow flurry in the morning turned more and more into light snowfall as the day went on, and now there were no flakes to be seen at all. The sky even looked as if the clouds would break up soon.

Great, then we can go to our parents tomorrow!"

Unfortunately, I had to dampen Ricarda's hopes a bit.

I wouldn't count on it just yet. First of all, the roads and paths up to here have to be cleared, and that will take quite some time. But maybe it will happen the day after tomorrow."

It would be nice if the parents could hold their kids in their arms again in time for Christmas Eve.

Only the girls were really disappointed, Christoph and Felix grinned contentedly. They seemed to like the prospect of another day without parental supervision.

So, now we should go inside. You guys please take off your warm clothes right now and hang them in the storage room to dry."

Yes, Mommy!"

For this remark, Reiko got a slap on the head from Jasmin.

You're the worst of the kids!"

Laughing, we entered the cabin one by one, where the usual undressing chaos began, so I retreated with Jonas to the bedroom right after taking off our boots.

Okay, here we have a little more space, out there everyone is falling over each other."

We got rid of our snowsuits, then Jonas took a close look at the closet.

Are you looking for anything in particular?"

No, I just wanted to see if the closet has any protruding branches, too."


Well, because there's something to finish, and a branch was bothering you earlier."

With these words he pushed me backwards against the closet, and the next moment I felt his lips on mine. He really seemed to have a good memory - and an urge to bring everything he had started to a proper end.

Unfortunately, someone else also felt an urge, and that was to interrupt us, at least there was a soft and timid knock on the door of the room. Annoyed, Jonas let go of me and rolled his eyes upward. Helplessly, I shrugged my shoulders.

Come in!"

Carefully the door was pushed open, and there appeared: Patrick! Now this was the one I had least expected.

Am I interrupting? May I come in?"

Jonas sighed.

Yes and yes."

What ? "

Yes, you're interrupting. Yes, you can still come in."

I gave Jonas a slap peck on the backside. We had decided to give the little guy a chance after all.

Come on in, Patrick. Sit down somewhere."

Hesitantly and tensely, our visitor sat down on the edge of Reiko's bed, while I joined Jonas on the double bed. For a while we looked at each other in silence, then Patrick struggled to speak.

I… I wanted to apologize to you guys…"

Oh yeah?"

Jonas didn't seem to want to make it particularly easy for the boy.

I acted like a huge asshole."

You can say that again!"

I rammed my elbow into Jonas' ribs, but Patrick didn't appreciate this action.

Leave him alone, Fabian, he's right after all."

Still, we had decided to give you another chance."

Okay, okay, Faby, I'll back off. Keep talking, Patrick."

Well, that's pretty much it. I'm sorry I offended you, and I promise it won't happen again."

Hmm. That left me with an important question, though.

Are you just going to say that, or are you going to keep it up? Or will it only last until you catch Jonas and me kissing or cuddling or something?"

I guess I deserve that. Yeah, I think I'll be okay with it now."

Well I hope so, because I don't plan on denying myself every little smooching with Faby just because of you."

I hardly could wait for the next little smooching!

Okay, that's really all I wanted to say to you guys. I'm really sorry. I'll be going."

Our visitor got up and walked to the door of the room.


He turned to us again.

Yes? "

Glad you seem to have turned the corner. And thanks for your apology."

Patrick gave us another shy smile, then left us alone.

Look at that. Reiko actually seems to have pulled off a minor miracle."

Well, Faby, I can't quite believe it yet."

I put my right arm around my doubting boyfriend's waist.

Jonas, did you notice anything different about Patrick?"

What do you mean? That he managed to talk to us completely without calling us 'fags' even once?"

No, something else."

Jonas mused to himself strainedly, but came to no conclusion.

What are you getting at?"

He was walking around just like us."

Huh? "

In his underwear, Jonas. He didn't bother to change into jeans."

Oh. Right. And you think that means something?"

If you think about the fact that even this morning he would never have been caught showing himself like that to US of all people, then I think it does mean something."

Jonas' doubts were still not completely dispelled.

I guess you only ever see the good in people, Faby."

I try. Otherwise, life can get pretty lonely and messy."

All right, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for once. Hopefully Patrick will justify this trust."

Only the future could tell whether that hope would work out, but I was reasonably optimistic.

Come on, let's get our things out to dry and see if there isn't something to eat and drink soon."

Just a minute, Faby. We should wait another five minutes or so."


Because otherwise we might have to help making coffee and serving food!"

I had to laugh, only Jonas could come up with something like that.

Don't laugh! We've already cooked lunch today, so we might as well sit down at the made table now."

Which he was quite right about, so we continued a bit more of what Patrick had interrupted us with….


It took quite a while until everyone had peeled themselves out of their snow clothes, then the storm to the toilet started as well. Actually I should do that, too, but in view of the child hordes that would not happen soon.

What are you fidgeting about, Reiko?"

Jasmin had apparently noticed my dilemma.

I need to go to the bathroom."

Then go!"

I pointed at the gaggle of kids who were already lining up.

Not a chance."

Well… Then go to the outhouse!"

Ha. Ha. Ha. I don't want to freeze to death!"

Wimp. Then you'll just have to hang on a while longer. Just try to not flood the cabin."


But you can help me a little with the coffee preparations, that might take your mind off your problem."

I wondered if that would work. Well, I could give it a try. So I spent the next few minutes setting the table while Jasmin put on coffee and tea.

Is there anything I can do to help?"

I turned around and was pleased to realize that it was Patrick offering to help! The boy seemed to have really set out to make up for a few things from the last few days. Actually, I was doing quite well on my own, but I shouldn't turn down this offer.

Can you be trusted with a knife?"


I'm just asking. All that 'knife, fork, scissors, lights - aren't for little kids!' stuff."

Eh, I'm fourteen!"

He hadn't acted like that the last few days, but I was going to take his word for it.

All right. Here, you can cut the Stollen, but be careful with the knife, it's super sharp."

It hurt my soul having to share the wonderful Fabian Stollen with all the others, but there was nothing I could do about it. He just had to bake more!

With ardor Patrick concentrated on his task, and then it finally happened, the bathroom was available and I was saved!

When I came back, the kids were already sitting at the table in a relatively civilized manner, Patrick was handing out Stollen and Jasmin was nowhere to be seen.

Jasmin has gone to get Jonas and Fabian."

Felix must have read my mind. I decided to make myself a little more useful and distributed tea and coffee. Just in time when I was done with that (and thus all the work was done) Jasmin appeared with the two lovers, who now sat down at the set table. Well, Jonas and Fabian had already taken care of lunch, so I shouldn't complain.

As I had feared, we put a huge hole in the Stollen supply, I had to see that I got at least a second piece. When the nine-headed eating machine slowly came to rest, Patrick cleared his throat.

Ahem… Can you guys listen to me for a minute, please?"

Silence fell over the room.

I wanted to apologize for causing such a hassle the last few days. I'm really sorry, it won't happen again."

I had to hand it to him, the kid had character, he actually followed through with apologizing.

I'm really glad to hear that, Patrick, but I think you need to apologize to Fabian and my brother the most."

He did plenty of that already, sis."

Oh. Well then, that's good."

Respect, the little guy apparently didn't waste any time.

Then I would suggest that we forget about the past and only count what happens from now on. Agreed?"

Everyone could probably live with that, even if Felix didn't seem to trust the peace quite yet. Patrick, at least, smiled with relief; he was probably glad that we gave him another chance.

After that was settled, there was another question to decide.

So what are we going to do today?"

It had become completely dark outside by now, and the clock showed just before five.

I want to watch cartoons!"

That's right, I was glad we had a TV in the cabin. And cartoons were guaranteed to be running on some channel at this hour. That should keep some of the younger guests quiet.

I think I'm going to take a shower right away, I finally have to wash my hair again. After all, today we don't need to rush with the showering like yesterday."

Good idea, Faby, I'll do that today too."

It would not surprise me if the two got in the shower together!

Then you can scrub each other's backs."

Tststs, Jasmin should not overdo it! I threw an inquiring look in Patrick's direction, but he showed no signs of wanting to take this innuendo as an occasion for another freak-out. He noticed that I was looking at him and just shrugged. I nodded encouragingly at him, who was probably well on his way to becoming friends with the idea of a gay couple.

Can we play Monopoly today?"

Sure you can, Chris. When the table is cleared, you can spread out on it."

After that was settled as well, we divided up the clearing and dishwashing duties. That was an advantage of so many helpers, the work went pretty quickly, so that quite soon order was restored.

The girls settled down in front of the TV and found the children's channel pretty quickly. It would probably keep them busy for quite a while. Christoph and Felix unpacked the Monopoly game and seized most of the coffee table with it.

Can I play?"

I was curious to see how the two would react to Patrick's question! They seemed to confer telepathically for a moment, then came to a decision.

Okay, sit down."

I breathed an inward sigh of relief. Another step on the road to a peaceful coexistence.

And so the afternoon settled in. Fabian disappeared into the bathroom, closely followed by Jonas, why wasn't I surprised? The boys played Monopoly, the girls enjoyed themselves in front of the TV, and I made myself comfortable with Jasmin in the two-seater.

Tell me, Reiko, what do you actually want to do someday? Job wise I mean ? "

I'm going to take over the nursery from my parents."

Oh, do you have a green thumb?"

Supposedly I do. Why do you ask?"

Well, I could see you doing something in education or something like that."

I had never thought in that direction.

You really think so?"

Well, the way you got through to Patrick: well done!"

That was a lucky shot. I think I'd rather stick with the green stuff. It's nowhere near as much stress as a bunch of kids."

Hehe, definitely."

So, when are you done with school? And where do you want to study?"

Well, I'll graduate next year, and I'll probably go to college in ***."

What? But that was right around here!

Why here?"

Because I want to get away from home, and I like the idea of being near Jonas."

And therefore close to me, too!

I think that's great."

Oh yeah, Reiko? Why is that?"

Now I should probably slowly show my colors to her.

Well… I… Well, the thing is this. I like you, Jasmin. I like you a lot, actually. To be honest, I think I'm about to fall in love with you."

Jasmin looked at me with wide eyes and a smile on her face.

I didn't really want to admit it, mainly because of the long distance between us. I don't think it would work in the long run. But now that you're moving down here soon anyway…"

Not so fast, Reiko. That's still like 8 months away."

Yeah, but that's a manageable amount of time. And I think if there's a date set, so to speak, then I can live with the distance for the few months."

Hmm. I guess you're right about that…"

However, there's a much more important question."

Curious, Jasmin looked up.

And that would be?"

Whether you even want to be my girlfriend."

Oh! Now THAT is something I really need to think about first, though!"

Oh my. With fluttering nerves, I waited for her to decide.

It's cute, you're really nervous!"

Cute is what she called it!

Alright then, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Yes, Reiko, I'd like to be your girlfriend."

Yippee! I would have loved to do a happy dance in the middle of the cabin.

On one condition!"

Oh. What was next?

When I live here, I want to get a bouquet of flowers from my personal gardener at least once a week!"

I grinned at her, now that really shouldn't be a problem.

I promise!"

Good, now let's get a little cozy, from all the exercise in the snow I feel muscles I didn't even know I had."

Jasmin leaned against me, to which I had of course no objections, and so we dozed with the crackling of the wood in the fireplace in front of us. That's life!

Unfortunately, of course, this could not last forever, about half past five I was startled by the jingle of the cell phone. I had not even noticed that Fabian had turned the thing on again.

Are you going to answer it, Reiko?"

I had to, since there was still no sign of the owner of the noisy phone. Reluctantly, I severed physical contact with Jasmin and picked up the annoying thing.


Hello Mr. Heilmann, this is Bolke."

Bolke, Bolke… Was that name supposed to mean something to me? Oh yes! That was Patrick's last name!

Hello, Mr. Bolke, I'm sure you want to talk to Patrick."

Actually, I just wanted to ask if everything was all right with him, if he was doing well."

You can ask him that yourself right now, I'll quickly put him on the phone."

If he even wants to talk to us."

Unfortunately, Patrick's father couldn't see my smile.

He will, Mr. Bolke, I think you can count on that."

Do you really think so? It would be nice."

You'll be surprised. So, I'll pass the phone, hold on please."

I walked over to the three Monopoly players.

Patrick, your father's on the phone."

With a pained look, Patrick reached for the phone.

I don't know what to tell him. I've been fighting my parents for the last two months, too."

You'll figure it out, cheer up."

I don't know if five minutes is enough time for that."

That's right, the other kids' parents were probably lined up on the phone again, too.

Look, talk to him for a minute, then get his phone number. Then later you can talk to your parents again at your leisure, no time limit. Agreed?"

That would be great! Thanks!"

Hopefully Fabian wouldn't rip my head off for this wasteful use of his air time.

For the next half hour, our young charges talked to their parents while I slowly started to worry about Fabian and Jonas. They didn't show up at all!

Just when I was about to go to the bathroom for a check-up, the two missing persons appeared. And luckily I had just put my tea glass on the table…

Jasmin, pinch me!"

Why, what's wrong?"

Without further words, I pointed at the two boys who had just returned from the bathroom. Jasmin slapped her right hand in front of her mouth in shock.

My God, what is that?"

Do you like my new hair color? I mean, Jonas is all excited about it!"

Where there had been a light blond mop of hair on Fabian's head before the shower, there was now a wildly tousled collection of bright blue hair! He had actually dyed his hair - which of course also explained why the two of them had taken so much time in the bathroom.

By now, everyone present had noticed the total change in Fabian's hair color. The reactions ranged from ridiculous (Ricarda) to ubercool (surprisingly Patrick).

If you think it's so cool, Patrick, we can still treat you too. I have another coloring pack here, just not blue but green."

Now Fabian was putting ideas into the boy's head!

Cool! Yes! Can we start right away?"

I knew that would happen!

Take it easy. Think about this very carefully. If you still want it in two hours, we'll do it after your shower. Okay ? "

Great! But I already know I still want it then!"

We'll see…"

Satisfied, Patrick turned back to the book he had started reading after the Monopoly game ended. I, on the other hand, walked over to my best friend.

You're crazy, Faby."

He just grinned cheekily at me while Jonas ran his hand through his boyfriends' blue hair.

I don't even know what's wrong with you Reiko, it looks awesome. And for a natural blondie like Fabian it fits quite excellent. I think so anyway."

It would take some time to get used to this sight.

I don't know, I think I like it too…"

Oh my goodness! Not Jasmin too! I had a bad feeling.

So one thing I can promise you, Jasmin, I won't be walking around like a Christmas tree ornament any time soon!"

Haha, fine, whatever you say. You're pretty enough as it is."

Well that's what I meant! Shaking my head, I looked at Fabian again.

You really are always good for a surprise, Faby."

I know."

Why did you even have the hair dye stuff with you?"

Because I was going to do it anyway, I was going to surprise my family with it on the 24th."

You mean you wanted to shock your family."

Hehe, or that! But they're used to grief, just think of Tom's goth phase."

Oh yeah, that had been one of those crazy Roecker things too. Fabian's little brother had run around in nothing but black for a year. He had dyed his blond hair black, his closet knew only this one color, and he had even painted his fingernails black! In contrast, his skin had been completely pale, he had avoided every ray of sunlight like a vampire who forgot sleeping the day away. Strangely enough, the spook had then been over just as suddenly as it had begun. Okay, compared to that Fabian's blue hair was absolutely harmless.

By the way, while you were busy with the hair, the parents of the kids called."

Well great, then that's done for today too."

Not quite. Faby, I promised Patrick that he could call his parents again on his own. I think there's a lot of talking to be done. Is that all right?"

Fabian apparently didn't need to think about it for long, the answer came like a shot.

Of course! I'm sure they'll be happy to get their old Patrick back, too. And he might as well ask them if he can dye his hair."

I assumed that his parents would allow him to do ANYTHING if he just behaved reasonably again.

Okay, then I'll tell him he can call them now, and after that I'll disappear into the shower. Hot water is already back, right?"

Yes, we were in the shower right at the beginning, and after that we hardly needed any hot water."

Well then, everything was settled. I went to Patrick and gave him the cell phone, and while he gratefully dashed off to his room with it, I grabbed my wash kit and went to take a shower…


The surprise with my blue dyed hair was really successful! As I had already told Reiko, I wanted to dye my hair anyway, before I would return home on the 24th, and when I told Jonas about this plan, he had been immediately on fire and was only too willing to help me with the implementation.

That had been the only reason Jonas had gone to the bathroom with me. We had showered separately while the other shaved at the sink. Of course we had also had the opportunity to see the other completely naked for the first time, but we ware able to keep ourselves under control, so that nothing more than admiring looks happened.

The rest of the afternoon was very comfortable. The kids played or watched TV, the rest of us read or did other things. One after the other disappeared to take a shower, and Patrick also reappeared and gave me back the cell phone.

Well, everything cleared up with your parents?"

Yes, thank you for letting me talk to them as long as I did. My dad told me to tell you that he will pay you for the call."

That's okay, it's not that big of a deal, my dad will pay my phone bill this month anyway. Did you ask if you can dye your hair?"

Yes, I did."

And? "

He grinned mischievously at me.

I can. As long as I don't dye it blue."


But you can do green?"

I didn't reveal HOW I was going to dye it. The only thing dad said was, if possible, not blue."

Next to me, Jonas chuckled quietly to himself.

Clever guy!"

He could say that out loud! But well, I shouldn't care.

Okay, we'll see. If you still want it after your shower, we'll do that."


With those words, he rushed off to play with Arko for a bit.

Do you get it, Fabian?"


This transformation of Patrick. A few hours ago he wouldn't even talk to us."

Well, Reiko had indeed worked a miracle on the boy.

Jonas, I don't give a damn HOW this transformation happened. I'm just glad as hell THAT it happened."

True, it makes life here a lot easier and more pleasant."

Hopefully this transformation was permanent.

Okay, I'm going to go call my dad and find out if he has any news about our situation."

You do that, and in the meantime I'll go ahead and figure out with Jasmin how we're going to get dinner on track."

Jonas pulled away, and I dialed the home number.


Hello Tommy."

Faby! Hey, big brother, how are you doing with all the little livestock at the cabin?"

Haha, don't forget, compared to me you're still little livestock yourself!"

But only you believe that. I can spit on your head, as you know."

Yes, exactly once, that would be the last thing in your life."

Tom's laughter sounded through the phone.

Seriously, Faby, how are you doing?"

Well, it's a little different than I imagined these few days would be, but I'm doing really well."

Fine. So, have you turned Reiko around yet?"

Reiko? Why would I turn him around ? "

Oh… I just thought… You need a boyfriend, after all."

Who says I don't have a one already ? "

Come on, Faby, I'm your brother. I know what your love life is like, and that all the rumors are just rumors. You don't have to pretend otherwise with ME!"

Did I mention that Tom was not only my brother but also a smart guy and a really great friend ?

Hehe, still, I wouldn't change Reiko's mind. He's not really my type - OUCH!"

What was that just now? What's going on with you, Faby?"

Nothing, nothing, just Reiko came over and I guess he wasn't too thrilled with my comment about him not being my type."

I rubbed my aching upper left arm where Reiko had given me a good smack as he walked by.

Haha, you better watch out in whose presence you talk about what."

I guess he had hit the nail on the head there.

Well, I guess I'll have to get serious about finding you a boyfriend, big brother."

Don't you dare! Besides, Jonas would definitely object to that."

Jonas? Who the hell is Jonas?"

Jonas is the reason why you don't need to find me a boyfriend anymore."

I'll be damned! You're really going to claim that you have a boyfriend? Where did you find him?"

You'll laugh, in the middle of the winter forest."

Huh? "

Jonas is the apprentice from the Stone Valley Inn who got lost with the kids."

Laughter sounded from the cell phone.

That's typical again my big brother! Others go to the disco or a club to find a girlfriend or boyfriend - you go to the forest! Why take the simple way, if you can do it complicated."

Laugh as much as you want, Tommy. The end justifies the means."

I guess it does. Congratulations, anyway."

Thanks. But please don't tell the old folks yet, okay?"

Okay, I'll leave that entirely up to you."

Great. Now, can you get dad on the horn for me?"

I'd hate to, Faby."


He's asleep, he didn't get home until a little after twelve. If it's something really important I'll wake him up, otherwise I'd rather let him sleep."

You're right, let him sleep. Is mom there?"

No, I'm alone with dad, the others are all in town for last minute shopping."


Why? Aren't I enough for you?"

Hehe, yes, yes. I'd just like to know if there's any news for us up here. When we'll be dug out of here or something."

If it's nothing else! I can tell you that, too. Tomorrow morning, as soon as it gets light, heavy equipment will be used. Even a pioneer company of the Bundeswehr has announced their help."

Well, that sounded really good!

Does that mean we'll be out of here tomorrow?"

No, I don't think so. The K87 is completely closed, downed trees and heavy drifts, even with army technology it will take quite a while to clear it. As I understand it, they want to clear the road during the day tomorrow so that it is passable up to our access road. The day after tomorrow, they'll start again first thing in the morning, and then a snow blower is supposed to reach you at some point during the day."

Good, then the kids would be with their parents in time for Christmas Eve.

Well, that's fine. I'm sure the kids and the parents will be happy to hear that."

I think so too, but Faby, this is all still to be taken with a grain of salt, there's no guarantee it won't take an extra day."

That's all right, Tom. Okay, I'm going to hang up now, I don't think the battery will last forever, I need to get the phone back on the charger. Say hello to the others for me, please. Tell mom and dad not to worry, we're fine up here."

Will do. Well then, see you soon."

Bye, Tommy."

I ended the call and walked over to the kitchen counter.

Well, what are you cooking up?"

Bockwurst for everyone, it's quick and not as much work as cutting up lots of sausage and stuff first. So, did you hear anything new from your dad?"

I could only talk to Tom, my little brother, my dad was asleep. I guess he's had a lot on his mind the last few days."

Understandable. So you don't know yet when we'll be freed from here?"

Actually I do, Jasmin, but I'll tell you when we're all sitting at the table, okay?"

She agreed with that, it was the best solution after all.

Faby, can I have the cell phone again later? My parents want to hear from me every night too."

That, Reiko, I have to think about very seriously!"

Huh? What do you mean?"

You're still asking that? After what you did to me?"

What did I do to you?"

I rubbed over my still slightly sore upper arm.

You didn't know where to put all your strength, again."

Oh. Sorry. But well… You had more or less said that you didn't find me desirable. And of course that had to be punished!"

Hm, if you're that brutal, you won't be finding another girlfriend anytime soon."

Cheekily, Reiko grinned at me.

I don't need to, I've already found one!"

To the great amazement of Jonas and me, Reiko put an arm around Jasmin's hips.

Uh… Ah… Are you guys serious now?"

Yes, Jonas. Reiko and I have decided to give each other a try."

Well that was really quite a surprise. I had ONE problem with that in particular.

How is this supposed to work, Reiko here and Jasmin in Leipzig? Are you going to have a long-distance relationship?"

When Jasmin finishes high school next summer, she'll come down here and study at the same college as you."

There was no end to the surprises. Although this was a very positive surprise after all.

Then I guess all we can do is congratulate you."

I hurried to join Jonas' congratulations, and the young couple thanked us happily.

So, sit down at the table, the Bockwursts are ready, and the baguettes too."

We took our seats, and shortly thereafter the ritual of feeding the predators began. Then, as the eating machines slowed down, I shared the news about our upcoming release. The prospect of being reunited with their parents for Christmas put satisfied smiles on the kids' faces.

Of course, that also means we'll have some work to do tomorrow!"

Questioningly, they all looked at me.

Tomorrow is snow shoveling day! When the snow blower arrives here the day after tomorrow, it would be good if the whole driveway in front of the cabin was already cleared of snow as best as possible. Then the driver can turn around and drive back again without any problems. Besides, we need the space, since a few cars will surely come up here to pick us all up."

That made sense to everyone, and the prospect of having to move lots of snow didn't seem to be much of a deterrent to the kids. Well they would be surprised tomorrow…

After dinner, Jonas and I did the dishes, while the rest of the younger kids and Jasmin took showers. In between we played, read and watched TV. All in all, it was a very nice, cozy evening. Then it was time.

Okay, Patrick, do you still want to have green hair?"

The teenager jumped out of his chair.

Yeah sure!"

Then I guess it was meant to be.

Off to the shower with you. When you're done, just holler, and then we'll turn you into a green plant!"


Patrick jumped away, grabbed his wash and sleep stuff, and disappeared into the bathroom. Doubtingly, Jasmin looked after him.

Well that could be fun…. Soon the others will all want to walk around like they fell headfirst into a paint box, too."

Don't be so stuffy, sis! A little color in life can't hurt. And my hair is dyed, too, after all."

Yes, but blonde, and that is a natural hair color after all."

You'll laugh, if I hadn't already dyed it blond, I'd be walking around with green hair right now!"

Well, I doubt that the old Ziermayer would be very enthusiastic about it…"

Jasmin, the voice of reason. Well, that's what Jonas got from his choice of job, he had to style himself a bit more conservatively.

Faby? "

Yes? "

I think we should ask Patrick if it's okay with him if we do his hair. Or if he'd rather have Jasmin or Reiko do it."

Why… Ah. Yeah, I see what you mean. Okay, we'll ask him when he's ready. Jasmin, would you possibly take over if that's what Patrick wants?"

Sighing, Jonas' little sister stated her agreement.

I'm ready!"

Someone was in a mighty hurry in the bathroom. Jonas and I followed Patrick's call.

We can start!"

Patrick? "

Yeah? You're not going to back out now, are you? I get to dye my hair green, right?"

I had to laugh at his enthusiasm.

Yeah, don't worry, you'll get your green hair. We just wanted to know if maybe you'd prefer Jasmin or Reiko to do it for you."


Well… You'd have to take off your pajama top, and we'd have to touch you, too. If that makes you uncomfortable…"

Understanding and a little shame spread across Parick's face.

No… It's okay if you do it."

Are you sure about that?"

Yes. I know now that I acted stupidly, and that I have nothing to fear from you guys."

I looked at Jonas, who shrugged, so I gave the go signal.

Well, here we go!"

The dyeing now went quite undramatically, I left the actual work to Jonas anyway, who had already managed it so well with my hair. At the beginning Patrick was still a bit tense, but then he relaxed more and more, and in the end he joked with us quite freely. What a difference to the pinched, almost vicious teenager from a few hours ago! Then, when he saw his grass-green hair for the first time, his grin threatened to break his face.

Well, satisfied, sir?"

Great! My parents will make big eyes!"

Well hopefully really only big eyes and not a matching big scene, too. But there was nothing to be done about it now anyway, only a totally shaved head would remedy the situation.

Thank you very much!"

You're welcome. So, you now please clean up a little here, okay?"

I will, no problem!"

Jonas and I left the bathroom and went back to the living room, where by now it was much quieter. The kids were still watching some movie on TV, but they were all already in their sleeping bags. Reiko was busy rubbing Arko dry, who had probably already made his last walk out the door.

Well you two, did everything work out with our big little one?"

Yes, Reiko, he turned one hundred and eighty degrees. Who would have thought that behind the little creep there was such a nice boy. And it's thanks to you that the nice boy finally came out."

I had to do it for world peace. Or at least for the peace in the cabin."

Where did my sister go?"

She's already in bed, she was totally tired. And I'll get out of here as soon as I'm done with Arko."

You do that. We'll close everything up here and join you later."

I settled down on the couch with Jonas, and we watched the flickering flames in the fireplace for a while. After a few minutes, Patrick appeared and also immediately said goodbye for the night.

Wait a minute, Patrick!"

Yes, Reiko?"

Let me look at you first."

With a satisfied smile on his face, the recolored teen walked up to his " savior" and proudly presented his new hair color.

Cool, Patrick! Chiara will be all over you when she sees this!"

Green hair and bright red face - now that was a mix! Patrick stuck his tongue out at Reiko, then retreated to his bedroom.

Chiara? Who's Chiara?"

A girl in his class that he adores."

Well, the change you triggered in him should increase his chances with this Chiara more significantly than the new hair color."

Don't say that, some girls go for colorful puppies like that!"

We laughed, and the other four kids who had overheard the exchange of words also chuckled to themselves.

Okay, I'm getting out of here too. Don't stay awake too long."

Yeah, Dad!"

Boah, not you guys too! Good night, you sleeping bag pirates."

Good night."

Reiko took off, and Jonas and I also decided to bring the day to an end. Unfortunately, the four kids had somewhat different ideas after all.

We'd like to finish watching the movie."

Hmm, what were they watching anyway? Oh. 101 Dalmatians. So at least something age-appropriate.

How long does it run ? "

Until a quarter to ten."

Hm, pretty late for eleven and twelve year olds, but then again, they didn't have to go to school the next morning.

Well, I don't want to be like that. But when the movie is over, please turn off the TV right away, and then there will be silence in the cabin. Understood?"

The kids cheered and promised to abide by it.

All right, we'll do it that way. But you better be ready to get out of bed on time in the morning!"

Again, they were ready to promise me anything. Well, we would see. Jonas and I stood up.

Don't you have to go out and turn off the generator after their movie, Faby ? "

No, I'll set the timer for 10 p.m. now, and then the thing will turn itself off. Whether the four musketeers here like it or not."

Hehe, trust is good…"

…Automation is better!"

Exactly! So go ahead. Will you check again to make sure the gas stove is off and everything?"

Will do."

We did our chores, then wished the TV kids a good night and followed Jasmin and Reiko into the bedroom. I almost expected them to have hogged our nice double bed, but they were quite well-behaved in their single beds.

Well, did you take care of the offspring?"

Yes, they're finishing their movie now, and then it's bedtime for them, too."

Surprisingly, Jasmin didn't protest the TV permission, maybe she was just too tired.

Jonas and I got into our cozy bed and crawled under our blankets.

Does anyone still need the light?"

No one spoke up, so I reached for the only burning kerosine lamp and turned it off.

Well then, good night everyone!"

Three voices returned the good wishes, then silence returned. I snuggled up to Jonas, and before I could think much more about the past day, I was already asleep….


Something was not right here at all. Why were my feet suddenly so cold? Or in other words: WHAT was so cold on my feet? At least cold enough to let me wake up slowly, although it was still pitch dark.

But that wasn't all, my bed seemed to have gotten smaller too. Very strange!

Don't hog all the space, Reiko!"

Yikes! I startled and was suddenly wide awake. It wasn't the bed that had gotten smaller, no, the contents of the bed had gotten bigger!

What are you doing here, Jasmin?"

Silly question. Warming myself up, of course. I was cold."

And so you just crawl under the covers with me?"

Of course, a boyfriend has to be good for something, right?"

Now that was some logic! But she really did have ice cold feet, there was nothing to argue about.

And now shut up and warm me up."

Now that was a request that could be interpreted in different ways, but I assumed that she really just meant " warm me up" in the sense of " don't let me freeze anymore". So I allowed her to snuggle close to me, even if this meant that it was a bit colder for ME for the time being. But the physical closeness seemed to work, shortly thereafter not only Jasmin had fallen asleep again, I sank back into Morpheus's arms, too.

When I woke up the next time, it was brighter in the bedroom than the last time. Much brighter. Actually, the sun was shining through the window! Startled, I looked at the clock - already close to nine!

Damn it, we've overslept!"

My exclamation was loud enough to jolt everyone else in the room out of sleep as well. Which didn't mean they were actually awake yet, either.


Fabian, we overslept! It's almost nine!"

Oh shit!"

Take it easy, guys."

How could Jonas stay so calm? The dog had to go out, the kids needed their breakfast, and anyway: we had so much to do today!

The kids are making breakfast today. I had to go to the bathroom earlier, and I saw that they were already busy setting the table. And Arko was already outside, too."

Really, Jonas?"

Yes. They told me to lie down for another half hour, that they'd call us when breakfast was ready."

Well. That sounded a lot more pleasant. It would have been very embarrassing if all four of us had overslept. Just at that moment there was a knock on the room door, then it slid open a bit, and Felix's head peeked into the room.

Ah, you're awake, great. Breakfast is ready!"

And he disappeared again.

So I guess we should start getting out of bed, too. Jonas and Fabian had come to the same conclusion and were already working their way up to vertical. Then Fabian looked over at my bed, and his face derailed slightly.

Jonas, look there!"

Jasmin's brother turned, looked once, looked twice, then started grinning.

What are you looking at, brother of mine? Never seen two people in one bed before?"

Jonas started to say something, but refrained and disappeared with Fabian in tow towards the breakfast table. And Jasmin also jumped out of bed now. Out of MY bed!

Come on, sleepyhead, I'm hungry too!"

Menno, why were they all so cheeky to me in the early morning! But I guess I should hurry up and get out of bed, too, otherwise there might not be anything breakfasty left for me! I put on my slippers and rushed after the three others.

When I arrived in the living room, I saw that Felix had not exaggerated. Breakfast was really ready. Two toasters were in operation, butter, jam, Nutella and some savory delicacies were ready. Coffee and cocoa were steaming in the cups. A glance at Arko: he was lying quietly and contentedly in front of the fireplace, a sign that he had indeed already been outside.

What did we do to deserve this?"

Oh, you've been taking care of us all the time these past few days, so we thought it would be nice if we did something for you for once. And when I woke up just before eight and saw that none of you were up yet, I woke up the others, and we decided to make breakfast ourselves today."

That was really a brilliant idea from Manuela. We dutifully thanked the kids, and then the whole pack started to wolf down the food.

By the way, Patrick, great hair color!"

That's right, Jasmin saw the greenhead for the first time now. And I also looked closer, now in the natural sunlight, the hair colors of both Patrick and Fabian really came into life. And somehow the green of Patrick stood out even more clearly than the blue of Faby.

Okay, how are we going to do this today? Fabian has already told us yesterday that we have to move a lot of snow today. Somehow we'd like to organize it properly, it's really going to turn into work after all."

That's right, Jonas. I've already thought up something, what do you think: after breakfast I'll take care of the dishes with the girls. Afterwards we'll do some cleaning in here, that's also needed. In the meantime, you guys go out and start clearing the snow. Later, we girls will make lunch, then everyone will take a break, and after that we'll all do the rest of the snow work together."

Of course, it would never have occurred to me to tell the girls to do the housework, but if Jasmin offered to do it herself I had no problem with that plan. The others also seemed to agree with this distribution of work, and so it happened that after breakfast, a visit to the bathroom and getting dressed, all the male inhabitants of the cabin came together to take care of the snow. Fabian distributed snow shovels.

Now, pay attention. Do you see the red and white poles?"

We looked around, and sure enough, in various places such poles were peeking out of the snow.

These poles indicate the boundaries of the yard. Everything within the imaginary lines between the poles we should clear of snow as best we can."

Oh shit. This was a bigger area than I had thought.

Say, Faby, didn't I see a snow blower somewhere?"

Yeah, you did."

And why don't we use it?"

Because the snow is too high for it. It's just one of those little things, you can't have more than 20 centimeters for it to work."

Bummer. It looked like we had to use our own physical strength to get rid of the white splendor. Oh well, it was probably better if we started to work quickly.

Reiko, please start with Jonas here at the cabin. I'll go over to the driveway with the three boys, and we'll work our way toward each other."

That sounded reasonable, there was no point in everyone working in the same place and getting in each other's way. While Fabian was working his way through the deep snow with the little ones, I was already starting to shovel aside the snow in front of the cabin door with Jonas. After we worked side by side in silence for a while, there came what I had been expecting all along.

Reiko? "

Yes? "

What's going on between you and my sister?"

What's going on? You overheard yesterday that we're together now, right?"

Yes, I did… I was just a little surprised that you're already sleeping together."

I had to laugh.

Jonas, we're not sleeping together yet in the way you seem to think. We just slept in the same bed. There is a certain difference. And even that only two or three hours. Jasmin came crawling into my bed at some point because she was cold. That's really all that happened."

That seemed to reassure Jonas a little. Still, I thought his question was a little unfair.

Jonas, Jasmin is about to turn 18, and she knows exactly what she wants, too. Don't worry, we won't rush into anything. And besides, I find it a bit funny that you of all people are so surprised."

What do you mean?"

Well, you ended up in bed with Fabian on the very first night, after all."

But nothing happened between us!"

Yeah, well, nothing happened between Jasmin and me either! Why do you think it would be different with us?"

Thoughtfully and a little embarrassed Jonas looked at me.

Sorry. You're right, it was unfair to think that. And even if something had happened: it would be your decision alone."

That sounded much better.

Jonas, I promise you one thing: I won't do anything your sister doesn't want me to do. And now that it's clear that we're going to be in a long-distance relationship for a while, we're not going to rush into anything."

Jonas grinned at me.

Looks like my sister didn't get the worst possible boyfriend."

I'll take that as a compliment."

That's the way it was meant."

Thank you."

Now that any possible misunderstandings were cleared up, we plunged into work with renewed zeal. Slowly, ever so slowly, the area cleared of snow grew larger. Still, we would have a lot to do here!

Suddenly, Arko jumped around between us, barking loudly, and tried to bite the handle of my snow shovel. Well that was all we needed now – NOT!

The hyper dog wasn't alone, though; Jasmin and Ricarda showed up shortly thereafter.

Hey, you snowmen? We thought we'd bring you some hot tea."

What a service! Gratefully we accepted the cups with the steaming drink.

Could it be that it is much colder today than yesterday?"

Wordlessly, I pointed to the large thermometer next to the cabin door. It showed 9 degrees below zero Celsius - despite the bright sunshine! I was mighty glad that I had let my mom talk me into wearing the warm beanie with the earflaps.

Jasmin and Ricarda worked their way to the other four snow fighters, accompanied by a once again enthusiastic Arko jumping through the snow.

Very thoughtful, your sister. Looks like I didn't get the worst possible girlfriend."

Haha. Apparently that's just you, she would never have thought to do that just for me."

Poor Jonas. We carefully sipped the hot drink, it was just what we needed right now. Our break lasted about ten minutes, then we got back to work with fresh strength.


Jasmin and Ricarda showed up at just the right moment, despite the hard work I was pretty cold, and the three younger boys at my side felt the same way.

Tea. Need tea. Lots of hot tea!"

Ricarda laughed.

You shall have it, Christoph. Here, but be careful, it's really hot."

Well, it couldn't be hot enough for me, it would cool down quite quickly out here in the cold anyway.

You've already done quite a bit."

But we had also really exhausted ourselves.

Don't worry, Jasmin, there will be still enough left for you this afternoon."

I was afraid of that!"

Everyone laughed, but it couldn't be helped: despite our diligent work now, we'd all have to give it another good whack after lunch. Especially since, after all, we didn't have to move the snow just a foot away; the paths we had to walk with it logically grew longer and longer the more of the yard we uncovered.

We're going back inside, there's some work to do there too. What time should we prepare lunch for? "

I looked at the clock, by now it was just after eleven.

Half past twelve? Can you manage that?"

Yes, no problem. We'll cook a big pot of Solyanka and make baguettes to go with it again."

A good idea, hot soup was the ideal stomach filling on days like today. Ricarda quickly collected the empty cups, then she headed back to the cabin with Jasmin and Arko.

So, boys, can we go on again? You can hold out until half past twelve, can't you?"

With that, I had grabbed the three of them by their honor; there was no way they would give up before me. With new courage, we plunged into the masses of snow.

We made good progress, and when Jasmin called us to dinner at quarter past twelve, we had cleared a good two-thirds of the yard of snow. However, we were now also pretty exhausted and could use some refreshment and a break as well.

Come on, guys, let's go grab some food. That was a hell of a job you guys did."

Pleased with the praise, but probably also relieved because of the upcoming break, the three of them stomped next to me to the cabin, where we were expected by Jonas and Reiko. These two had also accomplished a lot, so we could go into the siesta with a clean conscience.

Inside, we slipped out of our snow clothes, then the fight began over who would be allowed to go to the bathroom first! But eventually everybody was done, and we all made short work with the Solyanka together.

Okay, boys, you rest for now. The girls and I will put away the dishes and wash up, then we'll go out and try our hands at snow shoveling."

But you've been working all the time too, you've earned your break, too. We'd better go out again all together later."

Reiko, we haven't worked as hard as you at all."

You guys are girls, though!"

THAT was something the hockey lummox should probably have refrained from saying!

Reiko Heilmann! What is that supposed to mean now? Do you think that girls are not capable of hard work?"

I… uh…"

Well?!? "

No, no, of course not, Jasmin!"

Well you better accept that quickly, you junior macho!"

Reiko realized that it would probably be best not to say another word for now, and smartly kept his mouth shut.

It was just after one when the girls were getting ready to head out into the snow.

We're taking Arko out with us, Reiko, is that okay?"

Sure, but please watch him. If he doesn't move around much anymore, then please bring him back inside. Don't let him lie in the snow forever."

Will do."

I looked at my watch.

Jasmin, we'll come out around 2:30 and relieve you."

Okay, but get a good rest first. All your bones and muscles must hurt."

Oh yes, I felt muscles I never even knew I had. And I knew it would get worse. The soreness would really hit us in the evening. But for now we spread out on the cushions, and shortly after that everyone was asleep or at least dozing. I had of course snuggled up to Jonas again, and so the exhaustion had a very real, pleasant side!

Well that's a nice sight for my old eyes!"

How? What? I must have fallen asleep too. I startled up and banged the back of my head on something hard, which turned out to be Jonas' chin.

Ouch! Faby, you have a damn hard skull!"

And Jonas a damn hard chin. Carefully, I rubbed the back of my head - that was sure to give me a good bump! But who had roused me so rudely from my sleep in the first place?

I looked up and saw a tall figure standing in the open door of the cabin. Through the bright sunlight coming from outside only a dark silhouette was recognizable, I couldn't make out who exactly came to visit us. The laughter at our collision, however, sounded quite familiar.

Dad, what are you doing here? Did you get the road cleared today already ? "

No, Faby, I'm back with the snowmobile. We thought we'd bring you up some more Stollen, a decent sized cold plate for dinner and some nibbles, so you can have a little farewell party tonight."

That means we're really getting out of here tomorrow?"

Yes, the K87 is almost cleared up to our driveway already, tomorrow morning we'll start on the last stretch up here to the cabin. By noon at the latest, you'll officially be part of civilization again."

Hallelujah! Had the others heard that, too? Although. Which others? Stunned, I noticed that the cabin was empty except for Jonas and me. Even my beloved seemed to notice this now.

Where did they all go?"

If you mean Jasmin, Reiko, and the kids: they're all outside, busily shoveling snow."

Meanwhile, my dad had closed the cabin door and stepped further into the cabin. I looked at the clock: it was already close to three. Why hadn't they woken us up? Very strange.

What the heck! Faby, what have you done to your hair?"

Dyed it, dad."

My father shook his head in disbelief.

Well, I can't keep up with today's fashion, I guess I'm too old for that."

Jonas ran both hands through my tousled hair.

Well, I like it!"

Ah yes. Well, that's all right then, Faby. After all, it's more important that your boyfriend likes it than that your old dad understands it, isn't it?"


I mean, Jonas is your boyfriend, or did I somehow misunderstand your cuddling?"

Oops. Well, there wasn't really anything left to misunderstand. Besides, he could know, I hadn't intended to hide it for long anyway.

Yeah, dad, Jonas and I are together now."

I see."

My dad made a stern face, and I nervously lifted myself slightly out of Jonas' embrace.

Well, congratulations, you two!"

Whew! Relieved, I let myself sink back down, and Jonas seemed to relax again, too.

Jonas, welcome to the family. Oh… Did I say something wrong?"

Dad looked at us in amazement, and since I wasn't aware of any fault, I turned so that I could look Jonas in the face. And on that pretty face tears were now rolling!

Jonas, what's wrong?"

My friend continued to cry and only very quietly managed to get out a single word. Family. Everything was clear to me at that moment. Carefully I changed our positions so that it was now I who took the other in his arms.

Fabian, what's wrong with him?"

Dad, I'll tell you about that later, okay?"

If you say so. Did I do anything wrong?"

No, rather the opposite."

He was content with that for now, thankfully.

Does anyone else know about you yet? That you're a couple?"

Everyone here at the cabin. And Tom."

Oh, your brother's in on it too? Probably on the phone yesterday, right?"

Yes. I take it from your surprise that he's been tight-lipped."

Indeed, not a word did he blurt out."

Good Tommy. There was a reason that he was my favorite brother. I mean, besides him being my only brother!

Can I tell your mother, or do you want to do it yourself?"

I thought about it for a moment. My mom could get pretty emotional sometimes, so maybe it was actually better if she got a little heads up from dad.

Go ahead and tell her."

All right, I will. She'll be mighty pleased too, Faby. But this…"

He pointed to my hair.

…this you'll have to confess yourself!"

I had to laugh, and Jonas also seemed to feel a little better. Reassuringly, I continued to stroke his hair.

And Jonas?"

Yes? "

You're the older one of the two of you, so I expect you to keep my son in line."

Oh, well, I really didn't need that, I didn't need a chaperone!

I will, Mr. Roecker!"

Just call me Juergen, okay?"

Okay, thanks!"

Very well. So, I'll quickly bring in the few things I have in the sledge. By the way, Fabian? You've really done a lot with the snow shoveling, almost the whole yard is cleared already."


But you do realize that you didn't have to do that, right? The big snow blower would have done that tomorrow in no time."

Crap, why did he have to bring this up!

I'm a little surprised you didn't think of it."

I sighed, now I guess I'd better come clean.

Dad, of course I thought of it! But…"

But what?"

But this way I could keep the kids busy for a whole day! Yesterday they spent hours building snow castles and playing around, today they would have gotten bored with that. And what else is there to keep them busy with up here? Should they just sit in the cabin and watch TV all day?"

Oh. So you put them through Occupational T herapy? "

Look at it this way, dad. When they climb into their sleeping bags or beds tonight, completely exhausted, they'll do so in the belief that they've done something good for all of us. That they have, so to speak, participated in their own rescue. That's much better than if they'd just been hanging around all day doing nothing useful."

Understanding spread across my father's face.

Faby, you should become a psychologist. That was really a brilliant move!"

Thanks, dad. But it will only remain brilliant as long as the kids don't find out about it. If they do, their last hours together here will be a gauntlet for me."

I get it, no one will find out from me. But you'll probably have to clear that up with Jonas, it seems to me that he didn't know all the glorious details of your plan until now, either."

Indeed, Juergen, about the deeper ulterior motives I hear now for the first time!"

Oh Jonas, I hope you can forgive me again!"

Well THAT I must think about very seriously! But we'll sort that out when it's just the two of us."

My dad laughed softly to himself.

That's right, Jonas, you have to keep Fabian on a short leash, that's the best way to deal with the brat."

Well thank you very much!

Okay, and now I'm really going to get the things inside."

Said it and disappeared, only to reappear shortly thereafter with one of the already familiar heavy food baskets.

Here, you'll have to unpack it yourself. I must get on the way back again, so that I still get home in daylight. Until tomorrow, guys, the longest part of your stay here is over. By this time tomorrow, everyone will be happily reunited with their families."

This time Jonas managed to get over the family issue without another crying fit. We wished my dad a safe trip back, then we were alone in the cabin again.

Okay, Jonas, what do we do now?"

My beloved looked at the clock.

It's already after three, and the others either don't seem to need us or don't want us outside. I suggest we unpack what your dad brought, and then we'll set up for a coffee break."

That was a good idea, I'm sure the hardworking snow shovelers wouldn't be upset if we called them in for Stollen and hot drinks.

Say, Faby…"

Yes? "

You really planned the whole snow shoveling project today mainly to keep everyone busy ? "

Slightly embarrassed, I smiled at him.

Guilty as charged."

Tilting his head, Jonas looked at me, then burst out laughing.

Haha. Faby, your dad is absolutely right, you are brilliant. No idea how you came up with this!"

So you're not mad at me?"

I didn't say THAT! I mean, you could have let me in on it."

Sorry, but the more people know about a secret, the sooner it's no longer a secret."

You have a lot of faith in me. Well, we'll be able to work on that in the coming weeks, months and years."

I was jubilant, this clearly meant that Jonas was planning a long future with me! I could not imagine anything more beautiful…


I woke up, and felt somehow abandoned. Only Fabian and Jonas were cuddled up on the couch, all the others had left. Or wait, Arko was still curled up in front of the fireplace. But that was it.

Yawning, I got up from the chair. It was already half past three, but nobody came to make us work in the snow. A glance through the window outside showed me that Jasmin was hard at work with the kids, and I decided to join them. For a moment I thought about waking up the last two sleepers, but they were slumbering so peacefully that I couldn't bring myself to do it. So I got dressed alone and left the cabin, even Arko had only a tired blink of one eye left for me and made no effort to accompany me outside. The kids had probably tired him out completely.

Once in the yard, I saw that Jasmin and the gang of kids had done a great job, in fact almost the entire place had been cleared. Well, I wouldn't complain that there wasn't much left for me to do. I grabbed a snow shovel and joined Jasmin.

Well Reiko, slept in?"

Yes… yawn… thanks. I needed that."

I bet you did. Are the other two coming out, too ? "

They did that already. Coming out I mean, hehe. But I knew what Jasmin meant.

When I went out, they were still asleep. I didn't bring it over my heart to wake them up."

Don't worry, we can manage the rest on our own."

Yes, I can see you've done a lot."

Well, even girls can work hard. And when the boys showed up twenty minutes ago, things went even faster. Okay, and now don't play the worker's monument here, do some work, too."

The voice of my mistress. What else could I do, I started to swing the snow shovel, and with united forces we tackled the last few square meters.

A few minutes we worked in silence next to each other, then Jasmin told me to stop.

Reiko, do you hear that?"

I listened, but didn't notice anything.


Kids, please be quiet!"

Our five charges had been making quite a racket all this time; they still seemed to have enough energy to make jokes on the side. Now, however, they too paused, and then I heard it too.

You mean the humming?"

Yes. I wonder what that is."

Well, to me it sounds like the snowmobile from the day before yesterday."

You're right, that could be it."

And indeed, the humming sound came closer and closer, and soon the associated snowmobile also appeared between the trees. Shortly after, it stopped next to us.

Well hello everyone! You guys are busy!"

We gathered around and greeted Fabian's dad.

Where is my son ? Don 't tell me he's letting you do all the work here and is lazing around himself!"

Mr. Roecker, he's sleeping right now, and he needs it. He works the hardest of all of us."

Well, Reiko, is that really true?"

Yes, that's the absolute truth."

Well, I'll take your word for it."

What are you doing here anyway, Mr. Roecker? We weren't expecting you at all today."

My wife and I thought you might need a little supply of fresh rations."

I frowned.

Does that mean we'll have to hold out here much longer?"

No, Reiko, just until tomorrow. I guess we'll be able to get to you by noon at the latest. I just brought some things for you to have a nice last evening up here."

This was good news. With each passing day, the cabin did feel a little more cramped now, and besides, the kiddies certainly wouldn't be thrilled if they had to spend Christmas away from their parents. The five little ones seemed happy about this announcement.

Okay, I'm going to go check on the cabin."

That was the signal for us to get back to work, and with newly awakened zeal we set to it. Mr. Roecker went to the cabin and opened the door, and at that moment it ran ice cold down my spine!


What's wrong, Reiko?"

Fabian and Jonas are lying there on the couch in a rather telltale pose! Mr. Roecker will notice what's going on with them at first glance!"

Jasmin's face showed incomprehension.

But Fabian's parents know he's gay, and they don't have a problem with it, do they?"

Yes, they are totally okay with it, but they don't know about Jonas yet. Correction. At least now Mr. Roecker knows."

Jasmin laughed to herself.

It's not so bad, could be much worse."

What do you mean?"

Well, think about it. The boys are lying there dressed on the couch, that's all there is to it. It's not like he caught them naked or even having sex!"

At this idea I had to laugh, Jasmin was absolutely right, THAT would have been worse! On the other hand, I didn't really want to imagine what two guys would do during sex. Although… I would like to know one thing! Was Fabian active or passive? But I would be careful not to ask him that to his face.

Reiko, the way you're grinning to yourself, you must have just been thinking about something VERY naughty!"

No comment, Jasmin, no comment!"

Laughing, we got back to work. After a few minutes, Fabian's dad came back out of the cabin, walked over to the snowmobile, and then dragged a large basket inside. When he left the cabin again shortly after, he came over to us once more.

Reiko, a LITTLE warning would have been really nice. I'm sure you know what a sight I found in there."

Apologetically, I looked at him.

Yes, I'm sorry, Mr. Roecker, it didn't occur to me until the moment you already stepped through the door. It must have been quite a surprise for you to find Fabian and Jonas snuggled up like that."

Oh, Reiko, that's not really what I mean, that was a nice surprise."

If that wasn't the problem, what was Fabian's dad getting at?

I mean the blue hair!"

This caught me completely off guard, and laughing I choked on my own spit.

Oh that… cough… that's what you mean!"

Yeah right! I was expecting a lot of things, but not my son running around like a walking neon sign."

That set off the next round of laughter, and I pointed at Patrick.

Take a look behind you for a minute, Mr. Roecker. Patrick, take off your beanie for a moment!"

Grinning, the teenager did just that, revealing his bright-green heap of hair. Fabian's dad slapped his hands over his head in mock horror.

Another one! Well that's going to be fun tomorrow when the parents find out! Reiko, if they don't want to take their son back with them because of this, you'll have to keep looking after him!"

Everything but that! As a permanent father replacement I was probably still a little too young.

Well, I leave you again. You could prepare yourselves tomorrow around ten for the liberation. You big ones please see to it that the little ones pack up all their things, that nothing is left behind. The same goes for yourselves, of course!"

We'll do that, Mr. Roecker. We've already cleaned up the cabin a bit today, too, and tomorrow we'll clean it up again, too."

That's very nice, Jasmin. Well then, see you tomorrow! Oh, Reiko, I left a package for Fabian at the door, would you please give it to him before he gets into his pajamas tonight?"

Well, what might be in this package? But I would probably only find out tonight.

No problem, I'll give it to him before he takes a shower."

Thanks, Reiko."

We said goodbye to Mr. Roecker, who got back on the snowmobile and disappeared into the forest with a loud growl. And this time without Patrick begging to take him with him. I glanced at the work that still lay ahead of us.

Alright, guys, let's get to it! We should be able to do this in twenty minutes!"

We even managed it in fifteen minutes, and highly satisfied we looked at the result of all our efforts. Everything was now ready here for the reception of our rescuers.

Look prfmpfffff…"

My words were totally messed up by a mega load of snow that Jasmin had shoveled right into my face. That called for revenge! I pounced on her, and already we were rolling through the snow. The kids did not want to stand there as mere spectators, of course, so that shortly thereafter the most beautiful snowball fight and brawl was underway. I had no idea where they still found all that energy!


After my dad had disappeared, we looked first of all what he had brought with him. In the basket we found a large Stollen, two packages of gingerbread, a huge plate with sandwiches and rolls, various snacks and four bottles of children's punch. Or wait, there were only three bottles of children's punch, the fourth one contained real mulled wine! So the farewell party could start!

As Jonas had suggested, we prepared everything for the coffee table. I set the table, Jonas cut the Stollen, and then we put the gingerbread in a big bowl. It really looked quite nice.

What do you think, Faby, when should we put on the coffee and cocoa?"

I looked out of the window and was quite surprised that no one was working anymore, everyone was just rolling around in the snow.

They seem to be done with the snow shoveling, we can get started, I guess."

Jonas fired up the coffee maker and milk stove, then we sat down on the couch for a few more quiet minutes.

Jonas, sorry about earlier…"

He looked at me without understanding.

What do you mean?"

Well… About my dad and the 'welcome to the family' and all. He couldn't have known that it would bring back such dark memories and even tears for you."

Jonas sighed sadly.

It's okay, no one needs to apologize for that. Not you, and certainly not your dad. He only meant well, after all."

That was definitely the case.

I'm sorry, Fabian, I'm afraid that I'm going to sometimes have a depressive phase on occasions like this."

I understand that completely, Jonas. But together we'll get through this!"

I smiled encouragingly at him, and that seemed to go down well with him, the dark clouds disappearing from his face.

Okay, the coffee is through, the milk is ready too. We should call the others in."

We got up and went to the door. Outside, a totally crazy sight awaited us: two adults and five children rolling through the snow, soaping each other up with the cold white stuff and seeming to be having the time of their lives. To make matters worse, Arko now dashed out of the cabin and jumped into the fray.

For a while we watched the wild goings-on in silence, then Jonas spoke up loudly and audibly.

Look, Faby, aren't the kids cute? All eight of them!"

With that, it was clear that Jonas included Arko as well as Jasmin and Reiko in the term " kids," which also got around pretty quickly among those concerned. All we could do was quickly retreat behind the door, and the next moment snowballs were landing on it!

Kids! I'm not a kid anymore! Just you wait!"

Uh-oh, Jonas, you hit someone in a pretty sensitive spot there."

Hehe, looks like it, Faby."

I looked around and spotted a ski pole. All that was missing was… ah, yes, that fit! I grabbed the ski pole, tied Arko's towel to it, opened the door a crack, and slid the white flag outside.


Are you giving up?"

Give up? Never! The most we're willing to do is sign a peace treaty without admission of guilt!"

That's not much, Fabian, after the way your better half beat down Jasmin and me. Can you offer anything in compensation?"

We actually could.

How about coffee, cocoa, Stollen and gingerbread?"

That led to a brief discussion amongst the… kids. And to a question.

Fabian? Is that homemade Stollen ? Baked by yourself?"

Ah. I had Reiko on the hook!

Yes, it is."

Okay, agreed, peace!"

I pulled back the white flag, opened the cabin door and cautiously stuck my head out. Sure enough, the fighting had stopped.

Well then, come on in and get out of those clothes. They're bound to be soaking wet."

While the away team now hurried to get into the cabin and rid themselves of their snowsuits, I made my way to Jonas, who was already pouring coffee and cocoa.

Faby? "

Yes? "

You should patent your Stollen recipe, you could win a Nobel Peace Prize for that."

Thanks, honey."

Five minutes later, everyone was sitting at the coffee table stuffing their faces with Stollen and gingerbread. Exercise in the fresh air really did seem to make you extremely hungry, so it was just as well that my dad had done another supply run.

What else are we going to do today?"

Ricarda's question brought the conversations around the table to a halt.

Well, you've noticed that my dad brought over a few more things. Like snacks, punch and some other delicious things for dinner. We can have a nice farewell party tonight!"

Cheers broke out around the table.

We'll have a good time, maybe play some games, and then we'll end our last evening here quite comfortably. Agreed?"

Everyone seemed to be enthusiastic about this proposal, at least I looked at satisfied, smiling faces only.

Good. But before the pleasure comes the work. Jonas and I will take care of the dishes and so on, and you should get ready for bed. So off to the shower and sleepwear on, we're having a real slumber party."

There were no objections to that either. Well, we had been walking around in nightwear the last few evenings anyway.

Fabian is right, and to make that go reasonably quickly, please shower again in pairs today, otherwise it will take forever again because of the limited supply of warm water."

During the next two hours there was a lot of activity in the cabin. In the bathroom was a constant coming and going, first Manuela and Ricarda showered, then all three younger boys immediately shared the next load of warm water, later Jasmin and Reiko disappeared together, and I rather did not even think about it.

Those who were not in the bathroom helped to prepare everything for the upcoming party. Nibbles were distributed, glasses for the punch were provided and the cold plate was unpacked. The latter found an Arko-safe place high up on the counter.

Oh, you guys have been busy, so the party can start soon!"

Jasmin and Reiko returned from their shower round, which had turned out shorter than I had feared.

But you're not starting without us, got it? Faby and I have to take a quick shower too."

I guess that meant we'd be getting in the water together, too.

Then you'll just have to hurry, we certainly won't wait forever for you, brother dear."

What an example of real sibling love!

Okay, we're already on our way. We'll just have to shower with lukewarm water."

Maybe it's better that way, you two. Or even better: ice cold!"

Sooooo not, I really didn't need that again!

By the way, Fabian, here's another package from your dad. I shouldn't give it to you until you get ready for bed."

A package? From my dad? For the bed? I had a dark premonition of what it was, so I snatched it out of Reiko's hand.

Come on, Jonas, let's go take a shower!"

Aren't you going to open the package, Faby?"

No, not here in front of everyone!"


Indeed. Oh. I pulled Jonas into the bathroom, where there was a heavy, warm, humid atmosphere. My sweetheart was still a bit puzzled by what had just happened.

I have a feeling that you know exactly what's in that package?"

I'm pretty sure I know."

Well, are you going to tell me?"

Later, when we're done showering."

Oh, you can't wait to see me naked again, can you?"

You got it, Jonas!"

Jonas was a little surprised by this clear, unambiguous answer, then he grinned and began to undress. I did the same, and shortly thereafter we stood in the shower cubicle, which was a bit cramped for two adults. Which I wouldn't complain about in this particular case, though!

But to be completely honest: nothing happened between us. At least if you left off the mutual back soaping. We agreed to wait a little longer, and therefore we strictly adhered to the rule " look yes - touch no". For more we would have had neither place nor time anyway, because the water soon became quite cool and drove us out of the shower stall.

While we were drying off, Jonas came back to the confounded package.

Are you finally going to tell me what your dad sent you?"

I sighed, Jonas probably wouldn't give up until he got to the bottom of the mystery.

Just open it and see for yourself."

Hah was this boy curious! I couldn't look as fast as he had already opened the package and pulled out the contents. Immediately afterwards followed by an outburst of hilarity.

What's this, Faby?"

It's my Christmas sleepshirt."

Your what?"

My Christmas sleepshirt. Tom gave it to me four years ago or so, and ever since then it's been a tradition that I wear it on the nights of 12/23 to 12/27."

Well that's really mega cute! And it comes with a matching hat too! Go on, wear it!"

This is exactly what I was afraid of! I should have made this thing disappear while I still had a chance. Now it was all too late.

Do I really have to? In front of all the others?"

Come on, it'll be fun!"

At my expense again. Great. But of course I couldn't deny Jonas his wish, not to mention the fact that my dad would definitely ask tomorrow if I had kept up the tradition. So I slipped into the ankle-length, bright red sleepshirt made of thick terry cloth. White tassels were attached to the bottom of the hem and to the wrists and collar, as well as to the opening of the breast pocket. The hat was also bright red, with white trim and white pom-pom.

Absolutely cuddly, Faby! A little weird with the blue hair under the red hat, but still, totally cute!"

Annoyed, I rolled my eyes. And this is how I was to present myself to the assembled crew!

Jonas was now slipping into his pajamas as well, and then my last reprieve was up, and we left the bathroom for the living room. When we arrived there, and gradually all present discovered my outfit, all conversations died out - to be replaced shortly thereafter by a laughing canon! Great. But what else could I do but play the game, so I bowed to my audience.

Hahaha… Faby, was that in the package from your dad ? "

Yes, Reiko. It's my traditional Christmas sleepshirt. I guess my dad thought it was the only thing that would make Christmas complete for me."

And Tom I would pay back for that someday!

It took quite a while for everyone to calm down, then finally the party could begin! Jasmin and Reiko distributed punch, the whole cabin already smelled of it. For us adults there was of course mulled wine, and Patrick also begged for half a glass. Well, he had finally grown up a bit in the last 24 hours.

And what do you want to play?"

We thought about it, then Christoph had the idea, which immediately earned approval from everyone.

How about Yahtzee? We can all play that together."

This was really a good choice, and soon, in addition to Christmas music and laughter from nine throats, the clacking of the dice on the table could be heard. In between there was eating and drinking, and of course the dog was fed, too, and later let out the door again. The obligatory telephone round with the parents also took place.

About nine o'clock the efforts of the day took their toll, more and more often someone yawned, and I thought that we should come to the end slowly.

What do you think, do we stop after this round? Some people here seem to be very tired, and tomorrow is a big day."

Completely uncharacteristic of a group of kids this age, there were no protests against this suggestion, and I secretly congratulated myself on my I'll-tire-them-out-during-the-day-and-it-will-be-easier-to-get-them-to-bed tactic. After Manuela, the youngest at the table, had won the last dice game, we cleaned up, ate the last chips and sandwiches, then everyone moved into their sleeping bags and beds – after brushing their teeth of course.

I quickly turned off the generator, then followed Jonas into the bedroom, where Jasmin and Reiko had already arrived. This time, they had immediately laid down together in Reiko's bed. Well, I couldn't deny them that, so I slipped under the covers with Jonas. It felt good to lie down so comfortably after such an exhausting day!

Well then, sleep well, enjoy the last night here in the wild."

Thank you, Fabian. All in all, it was a great time."

We could all only agree with Jasmin. I turned off the lamp, then silence returned. Until Jonas whispered something in my ear.

The sleepshirt is stupid."

Huh, what did he mean? I whispered back.


Because I can't reach into your pants."

Well, such a bad finger!

You could push it up."

Jonas blew on the back of my neck.

Should I?"

No, not this night."

Okay, but postponed is not abandoned."

Right. Good night, Jonas."

Good night, Faby."

Shortly after, his steady breaths told me that he had already fallen asleep, and within a few minutes I too followed him into the realm of dreams.


There was nothing better than waking up in the morning in a cozy, warm bed and knowing that you didn't have to get out yet. I looked around in the bedroom, then my eyes fell on the window. Oh damn! Daylight already! So much for not having to get out of bed yet!

Hastily I worked my way out from under the covers, with the result that I lost my balance and the next moment landed with a loud plop on the floor in front of the bed!


Menno, what a racket you're making in the early morning!"

From a thick pile of pillows and blankets, Fabian's blue head peeked out.

Sorry, I fell out of bed."

So what, you could have done it quietly!"

Now that was a sympathetic one. Rubbing my aching rear end, I rose from the floor and slowly my thoughts cleared, noticing a surprising emptiness in the room. I had been lying in bed all alone, and even in the double bed only the scrawny figure of Fabian could be seen under the comforters.

Have our better halves left us?"

Yes, they left fifteen minutes ago to make breakfast."

Oh. Well that was a nice service, for that I would possibly even forgive Jasmin for leaving me all alone in bed.

And now?"

Now we wait for them to call us to the table, what else?"

You mean you want me to lie down again, too?"

Sure, one has to take advantage of such a situation."

Hmm. Why not, actually. The hard work from the day before was still in my bones anyway.

Make a little room for me!"

Huh? "

I guess I had to help out. I pushed Fabian a little to the side and settled down next to him in the double bed, then I crawled under the covers as well.

Eh, what are you doing here! You have your own bed!"

I actually had that, but there was no one else in there to warm it for me.

Don't worry, I won't attack you. I'd rather leave that to your Jonas."


For once, I decided to generously overlook this insult.

You know what, Fabian? I think I'm going to send a thank you note to Melanie and René sometime in the next few days."

My bedmate seemed to have figured out that he wasn't going to get any more sleep, at least he turned to me and propped his head on his left hand.

Why is that?"

Well, think about it. If those two hadn't double-crossed me like that, then none of this would have happened. I wouldn't have driven off headless, I wouldn't have run off the road, you wouldn't have saved me, we wouldn't have become friends again, I wouldn't have met Jasmin, and you might have been bored to death up here."

Hmm… That's kind of true. Then I guess I should be grateful to them for finding my Jonas."


Still. I think a thank-you note would be a bit excessive. Why don't you show your gratitude by not giving René any more visits to the dentist?"

I had to laugh, considering the experiences of the last few days I almost felt a little sorry for René. Besides: I was pretty sure that Melanie would also cheat on him with another guy at some point.

We had some nice days up here."

You're right, Reiko. I had imagined them completely different, but nice they were indeed."

There was a knock at the door of the room, it opened and Patrick stuck his head into the room. When he saw us together in bed, he first looked a bit puzzled, then he grinned.

You can be glad that I'm the one calling you for breakfast and not Jasmin or Jonas!"

Patrick, you have a dirty mind!"

Oh, do I, Reiko?"

Yes, you do. I think it's great!"

Now all three of us were laughing, and I wondered once again about the transformation that had taken place in the boy. Another good thing that the Melanie-René scene had led to.

Anyway, if you can tear yourselves away from each other, you should really come out. That is, if you value getting some of that breakfast."

With those words, Patrick pulled the door to the room closed again, leaving us alone. What he had said, however, was enough of an incentive to drive us out of the bed.

We really should get out there, not that they'll really eat it all out from under our noses."

That's right, Faby, so get out of bed!"

We worked our way out of bed, and I grinned again in admiration of Fabian's extraordinary night attire.

What are you looking at, Reiko?"

Oh nothing, nothing… Don't forget the hat!"

Fabian gave me the famous finger, but put on the red Santa hat anyway. When we appeared in the living room we were (well, Fabian was) greeted with lots of laughter. I got a good morning kiss from Jasmin and saw out of the corner of my eye that Fabian did the same to Jonas, then we sat down at the well filled breakfast table.

Well, folks, that's it for our cabin adventure. It'll all be over in a few hours."

Over, certainly, but definitely not forgotten. The mood was actually almost a little depressed, somehow everyone had enjoyed the last few days one way or the other. On the other hand, everyone was happy to return to their families, especially the kids.

We had another leisurely breakfast, then the tasks for the last morning in the cabin were distributed. The girls would take care of the dishes, the boys would take care of the sleeping bags, and we big guys would take care of the beds.

When you pack up your things, please check carefully that you don't forget anything here."

The following hour and a half was a bit chaotic, no wonder when nine people had to gather their things and, to top it all off, clean up a bit. Shortly after ten, however, the time had come, everyone had collected their stuff and was waiting for the things that were to come. We had just settled down comfortably when Fabian's cell phone rang.


I tried to listen in, but could only catch Fabian's side of the conversation.


That sounded positive.

Yes, we're already packed and just waiting for you guys."

Hopefully not too much longer, because unlike the other days, we were all fully dressed, except for boots and jackets we wore normal street clothes, of course with the inevitable long underwear underneath. After all, the thermometer showed twelve degrees below zero!

Okay, I'll pass it on. See you soon!"

See you soon? Then hopefully we wouldn't have to wait too much longer! Fabian ended the conversation and looked smiling in the round.

I'm supposed to give you a nice greeting from my dad, the snow blower has just started to take care of our driveway. It should arrive here in about half an hour. Your parents are also close by, they'll come up when the snow blower has cleared the way."

Cheers broke out among the kids, and I was also relieved. The next half hour flew by, and then we heard a heavy engine humming up the trail to the cabin.

They're here!"

Now the kids were unstoppable, slipping into their shoes and jackets, then rushing outside. We older cabin dwellers took it a little easier and still arrived in the yard in time to see the snow blower turn into the already cleared area. Behind them followed two four-wheel drive minibuses of the mountain rescue service, from which - as soon as they had come to a halt - two handfuls of adults jumped and rushed towards the children. The children, in turn, rushed toward the adults, and shortly thereafter scenes could be seen that were otherwise only known from the documents on the fall of the Berlin Wall. Jasmin, Jonas, Fabian and I stood a little apart and grinned to ourselves.

The snow blower driver had also gotten out and came sauntering over to us.

You've done a hell of a job shoveling snow. Wouldn't have been necessary, though."

Fabian turned a bit pale, cast an anxious glance in the direction of the children, then put his right index finger in front of his lips.


The snow blower driver didn't seem to know quite what Fabian wanted from him, but he had already moved on to the next topic anyway.

I'm going back down now and make the path a little wider. When I'm through, the others will come up too."

Ah yes, I had wondered why my parents were not here yet. The driver swung back into his snow-slinging behemoth, and shortly thereafter the big yellow thing crept away toward the county road.

The initial cheers of welcome from the children had subsided in the meantime, and now they came over to us together with their parents. Manuela's dad had apparently been chosen by them to be the spokesman.

We would like to thank all of you very, very much. It's been really great the way you've taken care of our kids, and they're still totally thrilled with you and the days here at the cabin, too."

As our good upbringing and innate modesty demanded, we naturally downplayed our actions, though this was not accepted by the parents.

Today is a family day for all of us, but we would be happy if we could all meet for lunch at the Stone Valley Inn on the 26th. At our expense, of course!"

This invitation we could not refuse, so we agreed. Then it was time to say goodbye to our protégés, and one by one they boarded the waiting minibuses with their parents. At the very end, a mountain of a man asked me to step aside, where an equally sturdy woman was already waiting for us.

I am Hartmut Bolke, this is my wife Doreen. Mr. Heilmann, we wanted to thank you again personally for giving us back our Patrick."

I felt myself blushing with embarrassment.

But I didn't do that much at all."

No, no, my husband is quite right! You have accomplished in two days what none of us was able to do in two months! Patrick told us everything. We will have a lot to talk about, but the most important thing is that he is talking to us again. Our son is back, and we owe it all to you."

I launched into the next protest, but was immediately interrupted by Patrick's father.

Don't talk back to me, young man! Just accept that we are and always will be very, very grateful to you. So, now we're going to get back to our son and enjoy having him back. Even though he now looks like a Greenpeace advertising mascot."

We laughed, apparently they didn't seem to have any real problems with their son's new hair color.

They both hugged me goodbye, then walked to the second bus and got on. At that moment, three large SUVs also came up the driveway and turned into the yard. The vans started their engines, and with a little honking they made way for the new arrivals.

As I walked back to the other three, I eyed the SUVs curiously. The first one was a police jeep, so it probably belonged to Fabian's parents. The second was my parents' Landcruiser, and I had to look a little closer at the third until I recognized the inscription " Hotel Stone Valley Inn" on the side. The old Ziermayer apparently did not miss the opportunity to pick up his apprentice personally.

I put an arm around Jasmin and saw Fabian doing the same with Jonas. We watched as first Fabian's and then my parents got out, actually followed by the hotel boss himself. Suddenly I noticed how Jasmin stiffened in my arm. With a fixed gaze she stared at the couple who were now getting out of the hotel SUV.

Holy shit…"

What's wrong, Jasmin?"

That…that's my parents!"

I shifted in a flash.

Your parents? The ones who kicked Jonas out and tried to forbid you to visit him here?"

The very ones!"

Now I could only join their exclamation of " Holy shit…".


Up until this moment, everything had gone great, maybe a little embarrassing because of the parents' expressions of gratitude. But now everything seemed to go down the drain quickly.

Jonas had been alerted by his sister's exclamation that someone else was getting out of the car behind Ludwig Ziermayer. The poor guy was actually nervous enough, because after my dad he was now supposed to meet my mom, but when he saw his own parents approaching, he began to shake uncontrollably. All I could do was hold him as tightly as possible and hope that my dad would intervene if necessary when the expected unpleasant scene occurred.

The woman and the man behind Ziermayer approached us with a fixed stare, soon the thunder would probably start. When they were within two meters, I wanted to protectively stand between them and Jonas, but they stopped all by themselves. Silently, glances wandered back and forth between the parents and their son, then Mr. Borken spread his arms.

Jonas, come here!"

Just like that, Jonas would certainly not have complied with this request, but we all now saw the tears on his father's face, so my boyfriend mustered all his courage and timidly walked toward him. When he stood in front of him, his father hugged him and pulled him close.

Boy, can you forgive us? We were such idiots…"

Tears were streaming down Mrs. Borken's face as well, as she now joined the hug. I looked over at Jasmin, who apparently couldn't quite grasp the whole thing yet. She was still standing frozen in the snow until Reiko gave her a push in the direction of her family. As if freed from a shackle, she rushed to her parents and brother. This was probably the time to retreat a bit, so that the family could have some space and time for themselves for the time being. And there were also my own parents to greet, so I walked over to them.

Hi mom, hi dad."

I was getting a hug now too, well, typical my mom. In a moment she would ask if I had always worn my thermal underwear.

Faby, I am glad that I have you back! Let me look at you! Well, you don't seem to be starving. But your hair! What have you done with it! But well, you have to know that yourself, you have to run around with it. I hope you always dressed warmly, not that you caught something up here in the snow."

I knew it. I knew this was coming!

Mother, let the boy catch his breath. You can see that he is doing well."

Oh Juergen, you know how I am! I'm always worried about my boys!"

I was lucky to have a younger brother, that way the maternal concern was at least distributed among two people!

And so that's your boyfriend over there? Jonas?"

Yes, mom, that's Jonas. I don't quite get what's going on there right now, though."

I guess I didn't say that quiet enough, the assembled Borken family had overheard my remark, as they were just making their way over to us. Jasmin and Jonas were walking between their parents, who had their arms around their offspring.

I think I can explain a little bit here. Four days ago the phone rang at our house at night, Jonas' boss, Mr. Ziermayer, was on the line and told us that Jonas and Jasmin, along with a group of children, were lost in the middle of a snowstorm in the woods."

That had certainly been quite a shock to them, at least because of Jasmin.

We were feeling pretty lousy at that point anyway, because it had slowly dawned on us that we were about to lose our daughter as well, after our son. And only because of our own stupidity."

Surprised, I looked at Mr. Borken, those were really very clear words!

We immediately packed a few things, got into the car and drove down here without stopping. It was quite a task to get through in the snow."

I could well imagine, especially for such lowland natives who were unaccustomed to snow.

On the drive down here, we were extremely worried, and we realized that really only one thing mattered to us: that we get our daughter and son back alive. Everything else was suddenly so unimportant…"

Why did it always need a disaster to bring clarity to people's minds!

At the hotel we met the other parents and Mr. Ziermayer, who raved about his apprentice Jonas."

Ha! Of course! There was nothing to do but rave about Jonas!

And then came the call that almost made us all collapse with happiness. Someone had found the lost hikers, they were safe, and everyone was fine. You have to imagine that, twelve grown people bawling their eyes out."

In such a situation, it was quite understandable.

In the days leading up to today, we had a lot of time to think, and then we also ran into Mr. Roecker, who happened to overhear a conversation we were having. Fabian, I can tell you one thing: no one has ever washed our heads like your dad did!"

I looked proudly at my father, who smiled at me with satisfaction. I already had enormous respect for him, but it had just increased even more.

But why did you call only once? And why didn't you tell me that you were already here at the Inn at that time!"

Jasmin, your father and I, we still had so much to think about. The first call didn't go so well either, we sensed that you weren't too happy with us. Then we decided that we couldn't solve the problem by phone, but only in person, from person to person. It was incredibly difficult for us not to have any more contact with you in the last two days, but I think it was better that way."

My own dad had claimed that I had a psychological streak in me, and it told me now that it had been the right decision.

And you're okay with me being gay now?"

Those were the first words I heard from Jonas since his parents showed up, and he promptly asked the all-important question.

Yes, Jonas, we're coming to terms with it. We certainly have a lot to learn, we don't really understand it yet. But as I said, the only thing that matters to us today is that you are well and happy. If you find happiness with another man, then so be it."

I hope so, dad."

Jonas broke away from his parents' arms and came over to me.

You see, this here is Fabian. He's the man I'm happy with. I love him, and he loves me. Whether you can handle it or not."

Mrs. Borken smiled at us.

That's what I thought. The way he almost went for our throats when we were walking toward you earlier…"

Mind you, I would have actually done that if they had meant my treasure any harm!

Who would have thought, we come racing down here in fear of having lost our daughter and son for good, and now we even get another son on top of that."

This was too much for Jonas, with a sob he slumped down next to me, I could just prevent him from slamming down totally. Immediately our dads jumped in as well, but soon saw that I had the situation under control.

Well, Mr. Borken, I guess the job of protector has finally been taken away from us, our boys have grown up."

You're right, Mr. Roecker. That's life, just a minute ago the little ones were bouncing around in diapers, and suddenly they're real young men."

And women!"

Okay, Jasmin, and women."

Meanwhile, I was holding a crying Jonas very tightly in my arms, but they were clearly tears of joy and relief that he had his parents back. While I was very slowly calming him down, his parents were now getting to know their second son-in-law-to-be, which they were probably even more surprised about than the first.

But what could parents do when their children fell in love? Nothing. And even if they didn't know it yet: with Reiko they had also made a good catch as a son-in-law.

Reiko's parents had now also joined our group, as had Mr. Ziermayer. The Heilmanns were of course especially interested in Jasmin, whom they had known only from oral reports. There would certainly be no problems, Jasmin's open and cheerful nature would quickly walk her way into their hearts.

It was then my mom who urged us to leave.

Okay folks, shouldn't we set off now? Faby, you are already expected by the whole family."

Oh, what a shame, I had forgotten all about that whole family.

You'll be glad to get out of here at last, won't you?"

And Tom will sleep in my room, mom ? "

Yes, of course, there's no other way with so many visitors."

Leonie, our son doesn't seem to be very enthusiastic about this prospect. What's the matter, Faby, don't you feel like it? Christmas Eve with the whole family?"

I decided to be completely honest.

Dad, we just spent four days here in a cramped space, nine people plus a dog. And now you're coming at me with a huge family party. I'm sorry, but it's like jumping from the frying pan into the fire."

I know, but we can't chase all the relatives out of the house!"

I knew that, too. Alas.

Couldn't we at least stay here at the cabin for one more night?"

Reiko's suggestion was the straw I was now grasping at.

Exactly! Then we could still recover in peace from the exertions of the last few days."

But that's not possible, surely your parents want to have you with them for Christmas too."

As expected, the biggest resistance came from my mother. The other parental units seemed a little more open-minded.

Well, Christmas is 3 days, and if it's only until tomorrow…"

Reiko smiled gratefully at his mother.

It shouldn't be up to us either, we've done without our two for so long, so one day won't make any difference."

My mother now realized that she was standing in a lost position.

All right, if that's what it takes. But you'll be home for lunch tomorrow, young man!"

Hopefully, by then I'd have recharged my batteries enough to be able to put up with the family clan.

Wait a minute, we haven't even asked Jasmin and Jonas if they want to stay here yet."

Their broad grins were answer enough, and so I guess everything was settled.

Or maybe not. Suddenly, the corners of Jonas' mouth dropped.

What is it, honey?"

I can't stay here."

Why not, son?"

I've got an early shift at the hotel tomorrow."

Shit, I hadn't even thought of that anymore. Jonas was the only one of us who had to work.

Bub, let me worry about that! Your next shift doesn't start until the third of January, until then I want to see you at the hotel as a guest at most, understand?"

That was the final proof, old Ziermayer was on a massive guilt trip. Usually he was after people's money even more than the IRS!

Really, boss?"

Yeah, sure, boy. I screwed up when I sent you off with the kids, I should have known better. I'm glad I'm getting my apprentice back alive, I can do a few more days without him."

Thank you, boss, thank you so much!"

You're welcome. Okay, now I have to get back to the Inn, the business doesn't run itself. Mrs. Borken, Mr. Borken, would you like to come with me ? "

No, Mr. Ziermayer, they're going to have lunch with us."

But Mrs. Roecker, we can't accept that!"

Oh yes you can! Now that the boys are staying up here for another day, I'm not going to return home empty-handed!"


Don't argue. We've got plenty to talk about now anyway."

Thus Jonas' parents had happily fallen into my mother's clutches, and they would soon realize that there was no escape from our family. Mr. Ziermayer said goodbye and shortly thereafter sped off, and then we too said goodbye to our parents. It was not a farewell for a long time, even though my mom again acted as if I would be lost in the wilderness for 3 more months.

After a whole tirade of admonitions and well-meant hints, we took the six old folks to the cars. On the way, I pulled my dad aside for a moment.

Dad, did you have to do that, the sleepshirt thing?"

His laughter filled the forest.

Yes, Faby, I had to. Tom insisted."

Ah yes. Tom. Very well. I now had a whole day to think of a very slow, very agonizing way for him to die!

Then it was time, the engines of the SUVs started up, and slowly the two vehicles crawled out of the yard. Reiko held Arko by the collar with one hand, with the other he embraced Jasmin. Jonas had also caught himself again, so that now it was he again who hugged me and held me tightly while we looked after our parents. When the vehicles had disappeared around a bend, we walked silently back into the suddenly so empty cabin.

We would now be able to enjoy this peace and quiet once again for a whole day. It would certainly do our still very young relationships good. But that's already another story…

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Germany!

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