It was nice morning and the Sun was shining at its best. I dragged the green bathrobe around my bed warm body, shaped a bun out of my hair and made my way in kitchen to brood some coffee for my foggy thinking. The day has no beginning without the morning coffee I always knew.
After putting the kettle on the stove I allowed myself the luxury of enjoying the serene sea view from my window. It had a nice frame made of willows that shook their branches right outside my white window. They had lost most of their leafs, but that didn’t seem to bother me at that point- it was still beautiful.
I heard the water boiling, so I stretched my hand out to get the coffee can from the white shelf. I could feel how life force started coming back in me after few zips of that drink of ecstasy and as usually that also brought an appetite for a bit more solid food, so I pushed the pan on the stove and opened the cupboard under it, took some bread from there without looking and traveled over the floor to also gather some tomatoes and cucumbers. I loved bread with cucumbers, especially when I had made the bread myself yesterday.
I had already finished the breakfast and was about to put the bread back in the cupboard when I suddenly heard an alarming snuggling voice from the same place. I waited for a second to think through all the options of things and animals I might come across when opening the doors, but decided there was no point of pushing it more in the future, opened the doors in one quick move and… screamed as lowed and hard as my lungs allowed.
There was Mathew, his fierce curls shining in all autumn colours, blinking his two huge green eyes.
„Hush! Close that mouth of yours already!” he hissed and dragged the doors closed again.
I fell on the stool next to the table, stunned by that remarkable site. I sat there till I smelled something burning and rushed to save the pan from the stove. I emptied it on the yellow plate.
„Wait!” it suddenly came to me – what on earth was an almost thirty year old man doing in my tiny kitchen case? I pulled the doors open once more.
„Mathew! What are you doing here?” I tried to sound angry when kneeling in front of him.
„Shut up! Girls at your age should already know how to keep quiet!” he growled and tried to close the doors, but I didn’t let him.
„If you don’t come up with a bloody good excuse for being here right now, I swear…” I shouted halfheartedly, but still angry to find him there.
“I’m hiding! Doesn’t it look that way?” he bristled at me and pinced my leg so hard I had to pull it away and the doors fell shut.
I rose without word, smoothing the skin that got hurt. I didn’t bother playing on with the doors, but asked loud so he could hear me through the doors as well. “And why are you hiding in there?”
“Mh?” He couldn’t make out my question well through the white oak, so I repeated it and added on soft voice: “Chastity threw you out or what?”
“Mh? What? No, nothing like that! We’re playing hide-and-seek!” he protested.
I was already shaping my lips to acknowledge him and say “Aaa!” and sincerely laugh, but shut a moment later, appalled by the answer. “Come again?”
“I’m playing hide-and-seek. ”
I thought long and hard about what to answer or ask, because his words gave me shivers. I pulled the doors open one last time and asked as loudly as I could to maintain the angry sound: “And that is why you are hiding here, in my house, in my kitchen case?”
“Lord, help me…” I sighed and squat down. “Please be so kind and explain me now, from the beginning, why would an almost seven feet tall man try to jam in in my only three feet tall cupboard?” I consciously left out the age as after today I wasn’t sure myself if a man in his late twenties is adult enough to understand the contradiction he created.
“Because we are playing hide-and-seek!” he repeated, hurt now like a little child who’s world view you are not even trying to accept.
“You already told me that, yes.”
“But why in my kitchen case?”
“Because the rules say so!”
I knew we didn’t get far with such pace. “Oh, the rules say so?”
“Yes…” he drawled, not liking what my voice sounded like.
I on the other hand did like how it sound and after stretching myself I announced with fat voice: “If only rules say so, then get out of my closet, now!”
“WHAT? You can’t do that! NO, NO and one more simple no!” he jammed in the walls of the cupboard even more than I thought possible – there was no way to get him out there now.
“Why?” I demanded.
“‘Cause if Bertram gets my shiny ass before lunch, he’ll smack me with the knout!”
The situation just got my flavor all over it. I cocked my ears and took a seat on the stool.
” You do know the basics of the game, don’t you? You seek yourself a good hiding place and sit there till time set in the beginning.” He sounded too excited for my pleasure.
I had to scratch the back of my head, where the scalp starts – did I speak with a grown-up or a child? “Or else the it will knout you?”
“Okay.. And you are in my closet, because…?”
“Because today we’re hiding in your house!” he sounded as innocent as a kitten.
My heart skipped few beats – all of them? In my house? “And you’re doing it, because…?”
“Why are you doing it in my house?”
“‘Cause the cast set on your house?”
“Cast?” I must of looked very discouraging, because he held back for a second to rethink his next answer.
“Well, so we wouldn’t have to die in boredom, we cast loges, in which house we hide and then we… hide! And then comes meany Berty and smacks anyone he can lay his hands on, with the knout!”
It was freaky to see how his eyes started glowing when he spoke about it. Not to add up with his little play I made myself as indifferent as I could manage and asked slowly: “Am I only one, who doesn’t know about your hide-and-seek?”
“Really?” I could smack myself for the joy I felt – for once I wasn’t the only fool, who wasn’t oblivion about what went around. “Who else don’t know?”
“Addam.” The answer was so brief I thought I heard it wrong.
“Addam?” After curtain happenings I thought Addam knew everything that went on on the island. Thank God I hadn’t put money on it.
“He did come up with the idea,” he explained, “but he doesn’t know we still play it.” He shrugged.
“I’m not sure I understand you…”
“Well, he offered –that’s three years now? – on one very stormy night that we could play hide-and-seek and so we did. And he said, that to make it more interesting, we could do it in different houses and then we did and then Bertram posted that he will not hide in anywhere or anything and then Addam made this knout out of the handkerchief and said that he can be the Knout and that he can smack anyone he can find, but he does it always with such power and it’s painful and so…” he stopped his recall for a moment like he’d heard something, but as nothing followed, he continued: “Addam doesn’t know we still play it when we get bored.”
“How’s that?” I pushed another piece of bread in my mouth – the hunger won over the exciting story.
“We leave his house out from the casting.”
“How lovely!” I announced ironically and closed the doors for him. I took the palte from the table and took it to the sink, where I washed it and was about to dry my hands, when I heard him again snuggling in better position. “How long will you stay there?” I asked.
I looked at the clock, it was only minutes after nine.
Then suddenly we heard yelling from the stairs and footsteps as a pack of elephants had found the way in – I had to jump after my lovely yellow vase with dandelions to keep it from shaking.
“Don’t even think about it!” that voice definitely belonged to Bertram. “We are on an island if you haven’t forgotten!! I will get you eventually!”
I suited myself better against the cupboard, showed the hands crossed over my chest and waited him to get to me with his knout.
I didn’t have to wait long, after a minute or so the kitchen door flew open and panting Bertram, in his wonderful new green suit with red flowers stitched on, landed in. It took me one look in his blood thirsty eyes to pull away from his way and jerked downwards the kitchen case.
“Ahaa!” he yelled like a pirate and hit the knout in motion. “Come out, ya punk! Come to daddy!”
The doors of the cupboard opened fast and Mathew, faster then wind, stumbled out, around my table and tried to run away, screaming, begging for mercy, but was rewarded with a smack on his ass.
“Hey, that hurt!” Mathew protested, but was running the next moment for his life.
“Come to daddy and get your candy!” Bertram didn’t give in and I stretched out to catch my white lamp that seemed to be in danger of being knouted off the sealing, but the moment Mathew went, the knout found peace on Bertram’s hands too.
Before going he turned to me and, after a quick look around, smiled openly. He grabbed for my hand, bowed slightly and kissed it.
“Thank you!” and he was gone.
I waited till the sounds disappeared in distance and made my way up the stairs to change my clothing.
“Shoot! What if Mathew wasn’t the last one?” Just in case I made sure to look in the wardrobe too. And bathroom. And all other places that could or could not fit a man in them. To think – all this punch, in my house!