Verena Frasnelli
Small red pearls tumble in the morning’s silence. The necklace broke. Ann Sophie kneels on the kitchen floor and starts to pick them up. Immediately a sentence falls into her head from a fairy tale that she told her children countless times: The good ones in the bowl, the bad ones down the throat. She laughs and considers what in her life should she treasure and what belongs tossed out ...

She could not sleep. Father heard her call, got up, took her arm and sat with her in the garden outside in the warm summer night. They sat there, the two of them, two guests under an endless heaven. Her look followed his index finger as he pointed out to her the constellations: the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper …

She hid herself and did not want to be found. Is anyone still searching for her anyway? She crossed over the meadow. The farmer had not yet mowed and the stalks of grass tickled her legs and her hands glided over their tops as she passed, as though she wanted to caress them. Or be caressed by them. Mother had been wrong to rail so, had not even wanted to listen to her. A slap across the face she had received, because she had been too negligent in watched out over her little sister.

Oma sat on the edge of the bed and the toes of the small woman barely touched the floor. She sat in her flannel nightgown and, just like every night at this same time, she made the very same ritual: she nimbly undid her hair knot, lay the needles on the bedside cabinet and braided her hair down over her shoulder with her thin fingers, afterwards tossing it back with an elegant turn of her head. A glass of water also stood on this cabinet, in which floated Oma’s dentures. Oma without teeth: that impressed the child each and every evening. And every time she asked Oma a question hoping Oma would answer and show her toothless mouth. But Oma had seen through the trick and simply nodded her head …

She played with the other children on the terrace; music played out of the kitchen. She ran quickly into the house - before she peed in her pants. She had been holding it in so long, but there had simply been no time. Yet suddenly she paused, not being able to miss the act before her eyes: Oma was rolling dumplings in her hands while dancing a waltz around the kitchen.

She was kneeling, bored, on the bench by the window that opened into the courtyard. Her expression was one of yearning. The other children were running and jumping around outside; their laughter she could not hear, but she could read it clearly in their faces. The blisters on her skin were nearly gone, but she could still be contagious, according to her mother. Her look wandered farther out to the neighbour’s meadow. On the clothesline hung white sheets that danced wildly in the wind. She was sure that they smelled like summer. The sun was shining on them and the extraordinary shadow play on the ground fascinated her so much that she forgot the surrounding world for a small eternal moment.

Oma had sent her into Oma’s bedroom. Ann Sophie should fetch the sewing box. Actually she had wanted to tell her grandmother that she did not really want to do it, because in that room hung a photograph of a woman. “My mother,” Oma had once said. But that did not change the truth that this woman in the photo scared her. The black hair pulled tightly back, the dark eyes, the severe, penetrating look, the stiff collar of a white blouse. From this woman she once upon a time picked up her name Anna – and when pronounced “A Nandl!” it could never bode well. A beautiful woman she was indeed, Oma’s mother, but what she missed were the wrinkles that softened her eyes. Had the woman ever laughed? And the old, ostentatious frame made it all the more worse.

They all had nearly the same way to school, her and the other girls. They held hands on the way there and laughed and told each other about their favourite TV series that no one wanted to miss. Everyone wanted to join in, talk and feel like they belonged. Best friends in other words. But after school everything was different. What had happened? Had she done something wrong? Said something wrong? Yes, but what? Or was she no longer good enough for the other girls? These questions ravaged her brain, even though she could think of nothing at all that she had done wrong. The other girls avoided making eye contact, turned their heads away with disdain. They whispered among themselves and laughed and crossed the street as though insulted. Why was the way home so long? It was years later that she found out that this had happened to many others and that a word even existed for this. But back then, she felt alone, betrayed, helpless. Why should she tell anyone? It would seem to be a sign of weakness! And whom? In front of her house door she wiped away her tears with her hands. Quickly she stuck her hands along with the smeared tears into her pant pockets. No one should notice anything.

“And when you look up into the sky at night, it will be as though all the stars are laughing, because I am living on one of them, because I am laughing on one of them. Only you will have stars that laugh!” She placed the Little Prince on the floor beside the bed, got up and went over to the crib. Her little prince had just woken up and as he saw her face he started moving around, his smile radiated as she formed her lips into a kiss. She picked him up, her child, sat down in her chair and gave him her breast to nurse from …

Ann Sophie stood up, in her hand were all the small red pearls, the images, the stories. Like so many little treasures that belonged to her life, that made up her life, that gave it colour. “La vita é bella! Life is beautiful!” No one said it would be easy. She smiled. Yes, she will re-thread them all, just as they come.
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