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Chapter 6 - Silas

The year is 1946. My name is Silas Lang and I’m a twenty-three year old retired German soldier, walking through the streets of Copenhagen for the first time in three years.

I’d never thought I’d see this place again and it felt somehow liberating to be back, like not even a second had passed by. Everything looked the same. I could still remember the names of the roads and some of the shops, but the streets were deserted now. Germany had been left in ruins and poverty from the war, so walking on the Danish streets made me feel both amazed by how little had been destroyed and also a little jealous. My own home would never be the same again.

I turned the corner to find the road I was seeking, which led down to the lake I’d once loved so dearly. That was the place where I’d formed one of my strongest memories—the day I’d told Christian I was going back to Germany. Somehow, it managed to be both one of my fondest and one of my worst memories. I still couldn’t quite figure out how that worked.

As I walked on, the ground around me transformed into a green forest trail. I followed it without even thinking, just as I’d done so many times all those years ago.

When the lake was within sight, I stopped to breathe in the fresh air and just take in my surroundings. Absolutely nothing had changed. Every tree, every leaf, and every blade of grass seemed to be in the same place. I couldn’t help but smile at the sight of it. The small boathouse had been abandoned in the meantime and was slowly becoming home to a few tree branches, which had grown straight through the open windows.

The bench beside the water was still standing, but it was nearly impossible to see because of the high grass encircling it. I carefully sat down on the fragile wood so I could admire the calm view of the lake I’d missed so much. The weather today was exactly the same as the last time I’d been here: summer-ish, but not quite. It was neither too hot nor too cold. Just perfect.

“Sy?” I heard a small voice whisper from behind me. I thought I recognized it. It sounded both confused and scared, which made my heart beat faster in nervousness and excitement.

Then I saw him, standing there, right in front of me. And he looked so beautiful—more beautiful than I’d remembered. The way the sunlight perfectly fell on his face made a warm sensation spread through my entire body.

“Christian…” I breathed out before jumping up from the bench to stand in front of him. It was like a huge weight was being lifted from my shoulders to see him standing there in front of me. He was in the same place I’d left him, all those years ago.

Neither of us moved for what seemed like an eternity. We were just staring at each other, unable to believe what we were seeing. For a moment, it was like looking into the past—re-entering old memories as if nothing had changed. But of course it had changed. Everything was different this time.

The war was over.

Christian ran towards me, closing the remaining distance between us. His body collided with mine and he threw his arms around me, causing me to stumble a few steps backwards so I wouldn’t fall over by the sudden impact. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and squeezed him tightly into a hug. I was finally holding him again, and it made my heart skip a beat in excitement.

“You’ve grown,” I said, remembering that the last time I’d needed to bend my knees a bit to get on his level. But not anymore.

“You haven’t,” Christian laughed into the back of my neck. His laugh circled in my mind for a moment. It was the first time I’d heard it in three long years, and it felt amazing. I started laughing too. I was happy—really and truly happy. It was the kind of happiness you had to search for, but then once you found it, you knew that you didn’t need anything else. I didn’t need anything besides this moment.

“Ever since the war ended, I’ve been visiting this place every day,” Christian mumbled. “In hopes that you’d show up…”

“And I did,” I answered, releasing him from my grip.

“You did.”

“I’ve wanted to see you again from the moment I turned my back to you, Christian,” I said, carefully choosing my words as I did. “You were the only good thing to come out of this war—the only thing I was proud of doing. Becoming your friend.”

His face blushed a light shade of red while I talked, but still he didn’t move his gaze away from me. I kept staring too, exploring every inch of him like it was the first time I’d ever seen him. His hair was shorter now, making it possible for me to see the scar on his forehead. I slowly and gently ran my fingers over it.

“My plan has always been to come back to you when the war ended,” I said.

“I didn’t believe you’d make it. I didn’t know where they’d sent you…” Christian sighed quietly. “I lived a year in the unknown.”

“I was scared—”

“I know,” he cut me off. “And I was too.”

“There are so many things I didn’t get the chance to tell you,” I continued. “And I don’t know where to begin.” I choked out a small laugh. “While I was back in Germany, fighting in the war, not a single day passed by when I didn’t think of you,” I went on. “There’s something special about you, Christian Andersen.”

“What’s so special about me, Silas Lang?” he teased.

I wanted to tell him everything: how he’d changed my perspective about this entire war. How he’d made me even more sure of what I believed in. He’d stood up against his enemy while everyone else was scared. He’d made me realize that war doesn’t just bring out the worst in people—it separates the brave ones from the cowards. And Christian was one of the bravest people I’d ever met in my life.

I wanted to tell him all of that and more, but the words seemed to get caught in my throat. We were standing so close that our chests were touching. I wasn’t holding him, just staring at him, and it was like seeing him for the first time. He was so beautiful and flawless. So perfect that I could fall in love with him all over again. And it felt like I was a little bit, because everything was different now.

“I’ve waited three years for this…” I breathed out. Without hesitation, I pressed my lips against Christian’s. At first he felt tense against me, like he was taken by surprise, and I briefly second-guessed myself. But still, he didn’t pull back, and after a moment he melted into the kiss. I placed one arm around his wrist, allowing me to pull him closer, and as I did so, our bodies collided into something more intimate than a hug. It felt both scary and amazing at the same time.

In that moment, the world was ours. And we were lost: his lips on mine; his hand in my hair, pulling gently at my locks; my hand around his waist, moving in small circles on his back; my fingers tracing his every contour. I tangled my free hand with his and we locked our fingers together. His skin was just as soft as I’d remembered. My heart skipped a beat at the touch, sending shivers down my spine.

I couldn’t have wished for more because everything about this was perfect. Time stood still and we were completely consumed by one another, unconcerned by anything outside of ourselves.

We broke apart to catch our breath. I rested my forehead on his, breathing heavily, a wide smile spreading across my face as I focused on nothing besides him. He was now my entire world—I didn’t need anything else.

Christian let out a quiet giggle as he bit his lip, seeming almost shy by the way he was blushing. And he looked so beautiful.

“What happened to you, Silas? Back in Germany?” he asked. But his words only sounded as a whisper.

“I guess you can read the book to find out,” I quietly replied, trailing my thumb across his flushed cheek.

Christian seemed surprised. “You finished it?”

“Of course. I said I would, didn’t I?” I smiled as I searched my pocket for the little book with the brown leather cover that Christian had started all those years ago. The golden letters on the front cover—R-E-N-E-G-A-D-E—shone in a ray of sunlight as I handed the book to him. I’d had it bound in leather, rather than the pile of papers he’d given to me.

He didn’t say anything—just let his eyes scan the book in silence. I followed his movements, watching the way he gently opened it up like it was made of glass and slowly started leafing through the almost untouched pages. I watched him smile, and the smile stayed with him as he lifted his head to look at me.

“It’s amazing.” His words were low, but honest—I could tell. “And it has the perfect ending now,” Christian laughed. The sound of his laugh sent warm vibrations through my entire body and I just wished that the time would stand still. “Thank you.”

And for once, there was peace.

Das Ende

“And that’s how the story ends,” I finished telling him. Still knelt on the ground, I closed the leather-bound book in my hands. “The story about the boy who fell in love with the soldier… and the soldier who loved him back.”

I smiled up at him with tears in my eyes. “I guess we can’t always predict the endings,” I breathed out thickly. I allowed the warm tears to fall freely as there was no way of stopping them now, even though Christian wouldn’t have wanted that. “But we’ll always be renegades.”

I stood up and stepped back a few paces, taking in the full sight in front of me for the first time. His full name, Christian Hans Andersen printed on the slab of stone, the dates of his life written under it. I ran my fingers over the smooth surface, tracing the letters absentmindedly. My vision blurred, I reached across the colorful flowers to place the book on the cold, grey stone.

“Until I see you again, Christian.”

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