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Schlagobers

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For about six months during the seven years of the second Hotel New Hampshire, Lilly Berry took coffee at the Kaffee Mowatt with an American boy. T.S. she called him—just his first two initials, which were all he had for a Christian name. He was older than she was and larger, of course—but then, everyone was larger than Lilly Berry. Even Babette, the pale little French whore on the second floor of their pension—no, their hotel; it was a hotel in spirit and name, if not in fact—was taller than Lilly, though not by much. It was why she spent so much time trying to grow.

T.S. was trying to grow too, but he called it 'trying to write.' His mother was as well—she was working steadily on her memoirs while T.S. wandered the city and searched for the words that would not come easily. Lilly's words came easier, but they never came fast. Her typewriter clicks came in short bunches: few and far apart. No one would have mistaken her for an anarchist.

The last day the took coffee together, T.S. brought a story with him, the story that after all those months he'd been finally able to write. Lilly read it, licking the whipped cream from the top of her coffee, the whipped cream that Frau Schwanger had taught her to love, and then she took a stub of pencil from the pocket of her coat and started scribbling on various parts of the manuscript, looking up every now and then to check the expression on T.S.'s face. "My family's been living in hotels for a while," she said, blushing. "Hotels that are closer to pensions. I just… notice things."

T.S. nodded slowly.

Years later, when Lilly finally finished her first attempt at trying to grow, T.S. would find more of his words. They were writers, the two of them, but they were failed writers: unable to write anything that truly satisfied them. Neither Lilly nor T.S. would finish their final books. A bullet took T.S.—not his own. Lilly stopped passing the open windows.

After Lilly handed T.S. back his story, he made excuses to leave. She let him, but before he rose from his seat, she stood up and kissed him: a brush of lips against his cheek.

That was the last time she saw him.