It surprised me a little when Lionel asked to send in Sarina after I left. She wasn't in there for long, and when she came out she almost seemed intimidated.
Sarina wasn't the kind to be intimidated very easily, and I immediately wondered what Lionel had said to her. When I asked her about it, she would shrug or smile and say.
"Wouldn't you like to know?"
"Well... yeah I kinda would actually..."
"Well I'm not allowed to tell you. If you want to know, you'll have to ask him yourself."
Lionel was expected to make a full recovery, and he did. He was kept in the hospital for a few more days just to be sure that he wouldn't regress as suddenly as he had recovered. Then finally he was let out of the hospital.
The remaining few weeks of school were spent in preparation for final exams and while we were all busy, the exams actually facilitated our spending time time together, because everybody needs some study buddies right?
It was during one such study session at my house that, as usual, we found ourselves goofing off and not studying one bit. We had gotten a little work done, and we had all decided to take a study break. Nobody deemed it necessary to point out that our study breaks were often longer than the times when we did study.
"So what do guys want to do?" asked Claudia.
"I don't know" said Sarina, "We could do a game or something..."
I was struck with an idea so obvious yet so... laden with experiences and memories... that I almost chickened out of suggesting it.
"Guys... how about a game of hide and seek?"
There was a brief silence which was broken by Claudia.
"It's... it's been years since I've played that." she whispered.
Lionel nodded. "Same here. In fact... I think the last time I played... was the day you left, Daniel."
A sad smile crept across my face as I thought back to those days... everything had been so blissfully perfect.
Sarina looked she felt a little out of place, and I knew it was probably hard for her to join us after Claudia, Lionel, and I had already done so much and made so many memories that she wasn't able to appreciate and enjoy. It never ceased to make me feel bad when a moment like this came around. I needed to talk to her about it when I got the chance.
"Well I for one think it's a great idea, will Claudia be able to... you know... do it without her wheelchair?" asked Sarina.
With all eyes on her, Claudia thought about it for a second before her eyes lit up and she said "The doctor told me I needed to practice to build up my endurance, this seems like a great time to do it!"
With that settled, we made our way down to the park. Claudia rode in her wheelchair so she wouldn't overdo it and then not be able to play. We did rock paper scissors to see who was it first. Claudia played Sarina and I faced Lionel. I lost. Then Lionel face Sarina, who had beaten Claudia, and Lionel lost. Sarina got to choose who was it.
"I choose... Daniel!"
"Love you too! Now no peaking!"
"I know how to play!"
We used to count to thirty, but that was increased to forty, so Claudia would have a little extra time.
"Thirty-Eight, Thirty-nine, Forty! Ready or not! Here I come!"
I spun around as quickly as I could and just managed to catch someone diving behind the slide. I jogged over and found Lionel curled up in a ball.
"It took you 40 seconds to hide? Ha ha I guess it has been awhile since you played!"
He looked like he was trying to hold back a smile, but he still nodded and said "Yeah I guess so..."
The next person I found was Sarina. She had been hiding in between two cars in the parking lot.
That just left Claudia. I searched everywhere I could think of, behind trees, on the playground, in the parking lot... and there was no sign of her. Every time I turned to look at Sarina and Lionel they were laughing about something, which made me begin to think that something was up.
Turns out something was up.
I had been hunting around a grove of trees, when a pinecone hit me on the head. I didn't think much of it at first, because that stuff happened. When the second pinecone hit me, I looked up and saw Claudia sitting on a branch with a huge smile on her face. She burst out laughing and Lionel and Sarina ran over and joined her. All I could do was stare at her and wonder how the heck she hadn't gotten up there.
Lionel helped her down, and that's when I put two and two together. The reason Lionel hadn't gotten to his hiding spot in time, was because he had helped Claudia climb the tree!
"Nice guys. Real nice..." and they laughed harder. "I found Lionel first, which means he gets to count next."
After everyone collected themselves Lionel began to count.
I grabbed Sarina's hand and led her to my favorite hiding spot. The one that Lionel had never been able to find.
The one where I had kissed Claudia the day before we moved.
We both had to curl up, because there wasn't as much space now that I was no longer a five year old. I held Sarina's hand and listened as Lionel counted to forty.
"There's something I've been meaning to talk to you about." I said.
"Uh-oh... seriousness time alert."
"Well sort of. I... I just wanted to say I'm sorry."
"Well... I see how you look when me Lionel and Claudia have a moment, and I just feel really bad, and wanted to apologize..."
She laughed, "Well that wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was gonna be!"
"No silly. It's fine. Yes I'm a little confused because I don't understand the reference, but I'm glad that you guys have moments like that. It means that you are all really good friends and there's nothing to apologize for. It makes me excited to know that eventually I'll be able to look back on memories with the rest of you and laugh or cry... but thank you for thinking of me... that's really sweet of you."
I'll spare you the mushy parts and skip ahead 10 minutes when Lionel interrupted some uh... well anyways... he interrupted.
"How did you find us?" I asked, "Let me guess... Claudia told you?"
"I'm not five years old anymore Daniel" he said with a laugh, "And besides with the noise you two made I didn't need Claudia to tell me. I've just been waiting here for about 5 minutes waiting to see if you guys would finish up, and when you didn't, I decided to step in." He winked, and I'm sure my face went beet red.
"W-We haven't been kissing for that long..."
"No? Alright if you insist! I found Claudia first, so she is next."
I looked at Sarina who was trying hard not to smile.
"It's not funny!" I protested.
"Yes it is! You took it so seriously, and I'm pretty sure he was kidding."
"Well... you can never tell with Lionel..."
We played for nearly two hours, stopping only when the sun began to set. We didn't get any studying done, but it was most definitely a day well spent.