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“We cannot find any corpse in the lake.” The words of the officer in charge penetrate into Michael's awareness only with delay. “Are you certain? You are the only witness.” With that the water rescue officer exchanges a loaded look with one of the divers. Michael opens his hand. The chestnut brown curl of hair is still there.

“Sometimes I am really scared of Michael,” Korinna's hand gripped the smartphone tightly.
“Something is just not right with him.” Michael had heard enough; he stepped back into the foyer. Silently he took the small backpack from the hook, let the expensive earrings slide into it and closed the door behind him. “And the vacation had begun so beautifully. As though in another world, we floated on a gondola to this dreamlike place. Michael was immediately amazed by this hotel: loam, glass, wood. From these same materials we wanted to build our own dream house; he was finding some ideas right here at this hotel. We had spent hours making plans. And now?”

The earth in the woods swallows the sound of Michael's footsteps. He deeply inhales the sap-laden fragrance of the pine trees. Early morning had never been his time of day, but now everything is different. How she had smiled at him. Constantly her image pierces into his consciousness: her well-proportioned face, her pinned-up hair that revealed her adorable neck. Finally he arrives at the Black Lake. He searches for something out of the way under an old larch tree. The fog rising from the lake makes it more difficult to see. As it clears, a vague silhouette of a slender form appears. There she is!

“Genovefa!” breathlessly he falls beside her onto the soft moss. He takes her cool, fair hand in his and kisses it. His eyes wander up her arm, up her neck and become fixed on her lips. The pale red reminds him of a painting by one of the old masters. Genovefa breathes a kiss on his lips and snuggles, slightly chilly, closer to him. “Why did you not come yesterday?” Genovefa releases her hair clip. Her hair falls in a wave onto her shoulder. Slowly she begins to put it up anew, as though it were the most important thing in the world; as though Michael was not even here and had not asked a question. Only after several delays she answers: “Yesterday? Yesterday, tomorrow, today. Isn't time merely an illusion?”
“Yes, you are right; let us enjoy this moment.” Michael covers her neck with kisses, pushes her gently into the soft moss, his lips challenging hers to play. Heavy and insatiable she returns his kisses. Suddenly, still gasping for breath, she jerks upright. Her eyes stare into emptiness. Michael feels as though she had poured a bucket of ice water straight into his blazing fire. She is unpredictable. What does he know about her anyway?

“Tell me about yourself; where do you come from?” Michael cannot disguise the impatient undertones in his voice.
“Where I come from, it is too cold for me, too little life, do you understand?” Genovefa turns the corners of her mouth briefly into a smile. “I cannot live there; I need human warmth.” She snuggles closer to Michael. “Hold me tightly.”
Michael's cell phone tears the silence. Genovefa flinches and sits up as straight as a candle. She looks around searchingly. “Where does that come from?”
“It's only my new answering tone, the ‘Kleine Nachtmusik' by Mozart,” quickly he swipes Korinna's call away. “Do you not like that kind of music? Is that not part of your world?”
“Doesn't everyone live in his own world? Music is eternal, outlasting space and time. Sometimes I feel like a piece of music, caught in nothingness, a tune between the worlds.” Michael laughs: “Now you sound too philosophical for me.” He kisses her again on the mouth.

“Look what I brought for you,” he carefully lays the earrings in her hand. “Oh, they are so beautiful! Sapphire, such a wonderful blue!” She covers his face in kisses. “How did you know that today is my birthday?” Michael swallows hard. “Today is your birthday?” “Every day is my birthday,” Genovefa's laughter sounds entirely different from Korinna's. “After all, having a birthday means coming to the world.” Her lips search his mouth, sucking on him tightly and pulling her lover down into the moss. Their speed is breath-taking. Their passion drives him nearly to the point of losing consciousness. No woman before had ever been so close to him. As Michael wakes up, the spot beside him is empty. He has lost all sense of time. Had their passionate embrace lasted minutes or hours? As though in a dream he staggers through the woods until he finally reaches the hotel. Somehow it reminds him of his dearest. It looks as though it had grown here, as though it were a part of nature, just like Genovefa.

Michael opens the room door. Korinna cries into her smartphone. “I can't stand it anymore. I'm leaving. Michael looks right through me, as though I don't even exist. He doesn't answer my questions; I have no idea what's going on. Imagine, for the first time in all these years he forgot my birthday. Every morning bright and early he is off to the woods up to the lake. I hate him. He can go plant roots there in the woods for all I care.” Michael clears his throat. “I'll call back,” Korinna tosses the smartphone onto the bed and wipes the tears from her face. Then she tears her things out of the closet and tosses them into the suitcase. “Tomorrow morning I am gone. And today I will go to dinner alone. Without you.” Michael walks onto the balcony. Soon he hears the door close. He lights a cigarette. In the wisps of smoke he sees HER face, her mouth is slightly open.

It is still dusk, her favourite time of day. Michael sits down in the dew-covered moss. He nearly falls asleep when a wisp of mist touches his neck, giving him goose-bumps. The wind blows through the old larch. Michael turns around. “Genovefa!” Drops of water glisten on the hem of her dress and drip down onto her naked feet. He pulls his beloved down to him and very slowly he strokes a strand of her chestnut brown hair away from her face. She smiles and lays her cool hand on his neck. Gently she combs her hand upwards through his hair; once again he gets goose-bumps over his arms. He lays his head in her lap and closes his eyes. Slowly she pulls out the pocket knife from the side of his backpack; she opens it over his head. She then looks for a particularly thick curl among her strands of hair, cuts it off and places it in his open hand, closing it with a kiss. Softly she stands up and leads Michael behind her to the edge of the lake. They go in, surrounded by wisps of fog. Michael has never felt so light. How beautiful Genovefa is in this foggy light. A band of warmth connects him with her. He follows her further into the lake, without feeling at all the ice-cold chill of the deep water. Thousands of water drops glitter over Genovefa's dress.

“Michael!” Korinna’s voice strikes loud and fast. “Stop!” Water splashes under her feet. Finally she reaches Michael. “What is going on with you?” Korinna shakes him by his shoulders. As though waking up from a dream, Michael rubs his eyes. He can still make out the contour of her figure as Genovefa disappears into the misty fog.

Translated from German by Shan Wardell

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