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První Máj

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On the first of May, he meets her under a cherry tree between Zlín and Trenčín, blooming at the old chata situated in the crossing that makes their border—

(It wasn’t there two years ago, the border; but it’s nineteen-ninety-five now, and they’re still trying to get used to the twenty-five-eighteen-hundred-meter line that marks their divide.)

“I didn’t think you would be here,” he notes in half amusement, half curiosity, and the partial implications of stirrings less obvious to the eye. “You haven’t been, not for a while.”

(Not since the years leading up to their divorce.)

She doesn’t immediately reply, river-blue eyes fixed upon one of the streams to the Morava running through them. When she finally does, her gaze is fixed upon the cherry tree in bloom above.

“I’m just as surprised to see you here.” A pause, a musing of statements she decides are best left unspoken. “I thought I’d spend the day after čarodějnice here. After the bonfires, I mean. I expected it to be quiet.”

A snort. “Well, I’d say you picked a very unusual choice if peace and quiet is what you’re after.”

“Oh hush, you. I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“But did you want to?”

She does not respond.

He sits beside her, as he had done in nineteen-eighty-nine when November seemed much further from the first of May; in the spring air and fervor about them she seemed so beautiful, and he leaned in to kiss her beneath the cherry tree’s bloom—

(It’s said that if a couple kiss under a cherry tree on the first of May, their relationship will be a happy one.

A superstition, of course; but they liked to believe in its magic, at the time.)

“Regardless… I’m still glad to see you, here,” he muses quietly, and for a brief moment—as he looks upon her like he once did—he thinks she’s still very beautiful, and a pang in his heart bubbles up his throat but never finds its means of escape.

He doesn’t move to kiss her, this time.

Instead he remains still as her head falls to his direction, and river-blue meets wheat-brown; silence moves like the weight of nineteen-eighty-nine’s passage into nineteen-ninety-three, swift yet lingering all at once.

Eventually, she clears her throat to break the silence.

“… perhaps if you miss me so much, I should consider coming back next year, then?” She’s teasing of course, as he knows well from her by now. It catches him off-guard at first in the moment, but he returns with a similar cheekiness blooming upon his lips.

“Who said anything about me missing you?”

(He did, does very much so.)

Beneath the cherry tree’s bloom, they watch the streams connecting to the Morava that runs through them; past borders, past the twenty-five-eighteen-hundred-meter line that marks their divide; apart, but beside each other.