Carnaval Cow

“That’s right, the parakeets dance here and here, the cow stands here in the centre doing his dance and the chickens, the mouse and the beetles all dance round the cow. Have you got that now?” As she spoke Marcel’s girlfriend Anja was indicating the spots marked in chalk on the huge flat open surface of the lorry on which the group was standing listening to Anja’s last minute instructions. In addition to the nine or ten young people and several boxes containing animal costumes, the stationary trailer, still parked for the moment at the depot with the other lorries and trailers which would shortly be processing through the streets of Eindhoven, was also carrying a sound system for playing loud music and a huge painted stage-set depicting farm buildings and fields.

“The cow will be doing HER dance, Anja. I spent two weeks making that cow costume and that beautiful appendage underneath is an udder, not a what-do-you-call-it!” replied Anja’s best friend Liesbeth in mock indignation.

Ben felt his friend and colleague Marcel’s arm fling protectively around his waist and hug him briefly as Marcel hastened to correct both his girlfriend and her clever costume-making friend. “No, the cow does THEIR dance. And I can assure you we’re both male!” Marcel asserted to the group as a whole.

Ben grinned broadly and lingered for a moment in Marcel’s embrace. Anja’s reply to Marcel “Yes, well I can confirm that you are indeed a man, love” sent an irrational pang of jealousy through him for about the twentieth time that weekend already. But he dealt with it by ignoring Anja and making eye contact with Marcel and smiling at him. Even if Anja had him every night, including this weekend back at their hotel here in the south of The Netherlands, at least he, Ben, would have his arms wrapped round the gorgeous guy’s waist and his head nestling in Marcel’s midriff for the coming two to three hours as they performed their dance together in their cow costume in front of thousands and thousands of people lining the streets for this year’s Carnaval. Being the back of a pantomime-style cow was of course a cliché of an unpopular role, but with Marcel as the cow’s front end Ben had decidedly no complaints.

A few weeks before Ben had initially been a little shy about holding Marcel so intimately round his waist as they developed and practised the movements that they would be performing as a dancing cow. Marcel was straight, after all, and while he had never shown any problem with his colleague’s openness at work as a gay guy and had befriended him very quickly, Ben was fully aware of the obvious limitations which a friendship with a straight guy demanded. However, when Ben had politely placed his hands on Marcel’s hips, Anja, who was supervising their initial dance rehearsal, had chastised him. “Ben, you are going to have to hold that position for over two hours on the day of Carnaval. You can’t keep that bent-down position without letting Marcel support you properly. Give him a good hug and let him take your weight!” Marcel had concurred with his girlfriend’s advice and had made no protest as Ben had wrapped his arms round his, Marcel’s, middle, leant his head against Marcel’s ribs, and the two of them had practised dancing around like that to Anja’s approval. In the intervening weeks Marcel and Ben had continued to practise their routine, trying it out in the cow costume too as soon as Liesbeth had this ready, and Ben was by now well used to following Marcel’s steps and breathing in his masculine scent as they perfected their routine together.

The previous day the whole group with their animal costumes had travelled down from Amsterdam in several cars, one of which was Ben’s, to their hotel in Soerendonk. This was a village outside Eindhoven, the city’s hotels being naturally full-up with thousands of visitors for Carnaval. At breakfast that morning Ben took care to restrict himself to a single cup of coffee and to pee before setting out for the city with Marcel, Anja and two other group members in his car, fully aware that there would be no opportunity to relieve himself for several hours once he and Marcel were embraced together in that cow costume and their lorry was moving in procession. He noticed that Marcel on the other hand did help himself liberally to the hotel’s juice and coffee, and Ben wished that he had the sort of bladder that other guys like Marcel all seemed to have whereby they didn’t have to worry about things like needing the toilet at a time when they couldn’t go.

Now, as the whole group had arrived at the lorry depot, collectively admired the previous evening’s work of several of their team who had set up the farm-theme set on the trailer, and listened to Anja’s instructions about where the cow and other animals and birds would be dancing on the set during the procession, a new diversion presented itself. “Hey, here’s the beer! Drink up, guys and girls!” Frank, one of the lads who had built the set and who would be dressed as a parakeet when the lorry started towing them all, had discovered a box containing several crates of bottles of Heineken.

“No, that’s to celebrate afterwards,” admonished Anja at once. “If you’re all drunk before we even start it’s not going to look good, is it?” This was greeted with various disappointed noises from the others, so she added: “Well, you can have some of it as refreshments during the procession if it doesn’t stop you dancing, but at least lay off it till we’re halfway through, okay?”

Marcel protested immediately. “But what about Ben and me? We’ll be stuck in that cow costume! I can’t go through all the palaver of getting that cow-head off so I can drink, and Ben will be stuck down there with his head in my backside.”

“Alright then, you two are an exception I suppose,” replied his girlfriend as she grabbed two bottles from a crate and handed them to Ben and Marcel. “The rest of you lay off them for a time,” she repeated to the others. “Now, the drivers are due to set off in ten minutes so let’s all get these costumes on. Help each other and we’ll soon be ready!”

A buzz of activity followed as each person grabbed his or her respective costume from the box and negotiated its intricacies. The two-piece cow remained in the box for the moment, however, as Marcel and Ben clinked their beer bottles together demonstratively and drank. Ben took a couple of mouthfuls but then set his bottle firmly down at the edge of their trailer and waited while Marcel drained his bottle. “You’re not finishing yours?” said Marcel in surprise as he tipped the last drops of beer into his mouth.

“No, I’m driving, remember?” replied Ben. This was indeed part of the reason: he would after all probably be called upon to ferry people around again in his car once the procession was over. But what was also still firmly at the back of his mind was the fact that he would be stuck in the cow costume with Marcel and on public show for the next two and a half hours during which going for a pee would be out of the question. He had limited the coffee at breakfast and had been to the toilet back at the hotel three quarters of an hour ago, so he felt confident that he could last through the procession. But a bottle of beer right now would not be a good idea. He had therefore taken merely a couple of small mouthfuls and had left it at that. Once again he felt envy for people like Marcel who just drank juice, coffee and beer whenever they felt like it and never seemed to have to worry about needing a pee at an inconvenient moment.

“Oh yeah, of course,” replied Marcel. “Well, shame to let this go to waste…” he added, reaching for the bottle which Ben had set down. He made to add its contents to the beer already in his stomach but then suddenly frowned to himself and seemed to think better of it as if some troublesome thought had just entered his mind. “Here, Frank!” he called to the lad who had discovered the crates of Heineken in the first place and who was in the process of getting into his parakeet costume. “Have the rest of Ben’s, he doesn’t want it.” Frank accepted gratefully, profiting from the fact that Anja’s attention was otherwise engaged at that moment and downing the beer in a few efficient gulps.

Ben had taken the two halves of the black and white cow costume out of the box in the meantime and was holding the front end out for Marcel to take. The costume required each lad to put on his own half first, and the two sections would then need to be attached to each other and zipped up by someone else once Ben had assumed his crouching-down position with his arms round Marcel’s waist and his head resting against Marcel’s side. But Marcel hesitated for a moment without taking his half of the costume from Ben, looking around at the surroundings as if he was considering something. The trailer on which they were all standing and getting dressed up was attached to a lorry which was one of dozens of others standing in this open space. There were many other teams of people on other trailers, each group with its own theme for the Carnaval procession. Whilst Marcel’s and Ben’s group had chosen animals (farm animals if you like, though this theme had been somewhat liberally interpreted with various birds, beetles and rodents), there was also a group with Venetian masks, another with an ancient Roman theme, yet another whose female members were dolled up in Flamenco dance dress, and countless others.

“You alright, Marcel?” enquired Ben as Marcel continued to scan the horizon. “Come on, we need to get kitted out now.”

Marcel seemed to snap out of his reverie and took the front half complete with cow’s head from Ben. The two lads worked themselves carefully into the black and white leggings and pulled the rest of the material up over their bodies, completely concealing their ordinary blue jeans and sweatshirts, and then Ben finally helped Marcel put on the cow-head complete with its impressive horns. “You look like a real prime rump steak, mate,” said Ben affectionately to his friend, making eye contact for a final time through the eye-holes which Liesbeth had conveniently cut for Marcel.

“Shut up or I’ll milk you,” replied Marcel, playfully prodding the large pink rubber udder which was attached to Ben’s half of the costume and hanging from Ben’s front at about the level of his navel.

With the practised ease that came from the two guys having rehearsed this together several times before in the previous weeks, Marcel then turned away from Ben who bent forwards, clasped his arms round his friend’s waist, and leant his head and some of his body-weight against him. “Can we have some help over here?” called Marcel.

Anja, who had efficiently completed donning her own mouse costume, trotted over to the bovine pair and efficiently zipped the two halves of the costume together, plunging Ben into semi-darkness. Various holes were present in his part of the costume for ease of breathing and to admit some limited light, and Ben relaxed against Marcel’s waist, breathing in the now familiar masculine scent of his straight friend. Ignoring Anja’s exaggeratedly loud kiss on the cow’s head in front and Marcel’s humorous cow-mooing sound in reply, Ben banished his jealousy and consoled himself with the thought that Anja, even though she was Marcel’s girlfriend, did not have the view that he, Ben, had now and would continue to enjoy for the next two and a half hours.

He could gaze in the dim light downwards as much as he wanted at the bulge in the crotch of Marcel’s tight blue jeans without Marcel or anyone else even knowing. And he was hugging the lad round his waist, Marcel’s buttocks pressed into Ben’s chest, Ben’s hands clasped tantalizingly above Marcel’s groin. And now Marcel had started to dance as soon as all the group was in position and the music was started, Marcel’s feet moving in the manner in which the two had rehearsed, his jeans slackening and taughtening over his privates as he moved, Ben watching all the time as he himself followed Marcel’s dance movements for the benefit of the cow’s hind legs. Ben could sense that they were now on the move, the trailer being pulled by the lorry at a sedate walking pace, presumably out into the crowded streets of Carnaval-celebrating Eindhoven. And dimly Ben could spot the shadows of other members of the group through the peep-holes in the costume as they danced round the cow centre-piece which he and Marcel were forming, but those other group members were irrelevant to Ben. Only Marcel’s dancing waist, feet and legs were important as Ben danced along with him, leaning on him and holding him as they performed their pas-de-deux. Ben even ignored the yells, cheers and applause which he could vaguely hear from members of the public: he only wanted to concentrate on Marcel.

As the track changed on the loudspeakers of their trailer and a slightly faster number by Mariah Carey came on, both Marcel and Ben automatically quickened their dance steps. Keeping in time with the music was not strictly required, but both were sufficiently musical to do this naturally. Ben adjusted the weight he was putting onto Marcel’s waist, tightened the hugging grip of his arms, and raised his head slightly to Marcel’s chest height so that he could make himself heard by Marcel inside the cow’s head.
“We’re out in the streets now I guess, are we?” he called out above the noise.

“Yeah, we have been for a while,” replied Marcel as he continued to lead their dance.

During the next half hour Ben occasionally shifted his weight to one side or the other on Marcel’s midriff, feeling his friend compensate in his own posture as he did so, the two of them continuing to dance in their customary routine. In response to a sudden shouted “Marcel, Ben, turn the cow round!” from Heleen in her beetle suit, the two guys obeyed by wheeling on the spot to face a different part of the crowd. And all the while Ben enjoyed the sight of Marcel’s groin as he danced along with him. Ben’s occasional calls upwards to Marcel asking where they were or if he was okay were met with progressively shorter, more perfunctory replies (“don’t know”, “yeah I’m fine”) and Ben started to wonder whether his normally friendly, chatty mate was possibly annoyed about something, or maybe finding Ben’s weight a nuisance.

Ben decided to ask about it directly. “Are you alright taking my weight like this, Marcel?. Let me know if I’m putting too much strain on your back, won’t you? I can take more of my own weight whenever you need me to!”

“No, it’s okay,” called Marcel back in reply over the music. “You’re not too heavy. I just wish I’d had a piss before we started. I suppose I’m just gonna have to hold it in!”

Ben was silent for a moment as he took this in. He glanced back down at Marcel’s crotch, imagining the prospect of having to hold an uncomfortable bladder stuck in this cow-suit for another hour and a half and feeling thankful that he wasn’t the one with that problem. Was that hot bulge in his friend’s jeans which he had been gazing at for half an hour really concealing a high-pressure reservoir of pee which desperately wanted out? If so he certainly didn’t envy Marcel. “Don’t worry, it won’t be long now, you’ll be fine!” he called back upwards, firmly believing, despite the admission Marcel had just made, that Marcel would indeed be alright. While Ben felt that he himself was cursed with a small bladder and had to be constantly on guard against getting caught short in awkward situations, it just didn’t happen to other lads in Ben’s experience, and certainly not to hunky, confident guys like Marcel.

Marcel heaved a sigh which Ben clearly felt with his arms round his friend’s waist. “I guess so,” was Marcel’s reply. Clearly he really did need to pee quite badly, thought Ben, judging by that sigh and the fact that Marcel had found it necessary to tell Ben about it at all. Still, for a guy like Marcel that would surely just mean being uncomfortable until the end of the procession. If Ben himself had been in that situation he knew he would be panicking now, so he thanked providence that he had been careful with his own fluid intake.

More time passed and more distance was covered in the procession. Ben wondered how Marcel was doing and how badly he needed a piss, but he felt that asking him was not a good idea considering that Marcel was obviously not in any mood to answer his questions. Still, Marcel was hardly likely to pee his pants. That just didn’t happen to other guys.

“Turn that cow round, don’t just face the same way all the time you guys!” called a guy in a chicken costume suddenly. Marcel responded by wheeling again, and Ben followed round.

As they settled in the new direction and continued their dancing for a few more minutes, the shadows of the other encircling “animals” coming in and out of Ben’s peripheral vision through the peep-holes, Ben gave Marcel a squeeze around the midriff, hoping to convey his support in this way. Marcel’s response was instantaneous and almost caused Ben to overbalance: with a lightning movement of his hands, Marcel pushed Ben’s arms downwards so that they were now tightly encircling his groin and buttocks instead of the area above where he had been squeezing. At the same time Marcel stopped dancing for a moment and pushed Ben’s hand hard into his, Marcel’s, groin. Ben realised that he was now pushing on the bulge in Marcel’s jeans which he had been watching for so long but had obviously not been allowed to touch. As Marcel then relaxed the pressure on Ben’s hand and started his slightly jerky dancing up again, Ben then lingered for a moment with his hand still squeezing gently where Marcel had pushed it before carefully replacing his arms upwards onto Marcel’s waist and resting his weight once more on his friend’s hips, being careful this time to avoid applying any pressure on his bladder. He could hardly believe that having looked at his mate’s crotch for so long under the cover of this cow costume and studied its gyrating folds as he danced with the guy, he had just actually touched, held and squeezed Marcel right there where he had been looking, helping him control his bladder spasm after he had inadvertently applied pressure right there in its bursting fullness, all under the cover of this cow costume which was both concealing their action from thousands of members of the public and at the same time acting as a kind of prison for his mate preventing him from jumping off the trailer and finding a place to relieve himself.

“Turn round again, Marcel, most of the crowd’s on the other side now. They don’t want to see the cow’s arse!” This was Anja. Marcel merely stood stock still for a moment in response and only started to wheel round when Ben pushed slightly on one side. As the cow executed another 180-degree turn and Ben felt the sun shining on his other side through the artificial cow-hide once again, he sensed Marcel’s hands moving down over Ben’s own which were still clasped round the lad’s waist. With Marcel’s wrists in contact with the backs of Ben’s hands, Marcel applied pressure with both his hands onto his crotch and slightly upwards as he seemed to fight back a persistent urge which continued for several seconds. He wasn’t dancing anymore, and Ben’s own foot movements seemed a bit incongruous as a result. He reduced them to a minimum but kept a subtle rythmic dance going with the cow’s hind legs, hoping that this would encourage Marcel to get going again.

As Marcel continued to stand motionless, his hands still pushing into his groin, Ben leaned up to call to him once again over the noise of the music. Marcel had been short with his responses before to say the least, and Ben had long since given up any pretence at conversation with him, but seeing him like this was disconcerting. And Ben really wanted to know if Marcel was going to be alright.

“Hang in there, mate, we’re nearly done,” he said, carefully judging the volume of his voice to be audible to Marcel over the noise but not to anyone else. “You’ll be fine,” he added as Marcel continued to stand there without dancing.

“Ben, I’m absolutely bursting for a piss. I don’t know what to do,” came the reply.

Ben’s heart pounded in sympathy at the situation in which Marcel found himself now and he instinctively tightened his hold on his mate’s waist, forgetting for a moment that this had been agony for Marcel the previous time and being reminded of this once again when Marcel tensed up and yanked Ben’s arms downwards.

“Don’t press there, Ben, you’ll make me piss myself!” Marcel’s frantic warning was then followed up by a gasp. “Oh, I can’t wait. I can’t hold it anymore! Help me, Ben!”

Ben felt his friend’s whole body shaking slightly under Ben’s embracing arms and, despite the fact that the sound system had just started up a particularly lively disco number, Marcel was still not making his half of the cow dance to the beat. Instead Marcel crossed one leg tightly over the other and crouched down slightly as he strained. His hands were again back at their crotch position, pushing slightly upwards as they had been before, and this time Ben could feel Marcel’s wrists trembling as they contacted with Ben’s arms at Marcel’s waist height.

Ben’s action was prompt. “Anja! Anja, can you help me a minute!!” he shouted out above the noisy dance number. He could not see where Marcel’s girlfriend was but she should be prancing around their cow somewhere in her mouse outfit like all the others in their group.

“No, Ben, please!” hissed Marcel desperately. “Don’t tell my girlfriend! Please, mate!” His voice was agonised as he stood there.

“Trust me,” replied Ben. Then he yelled again: “Anja!!”

“Anja, someone in the cow wants you!” came another voice.

“What is it, Marcel?” came Anja’s voice after a moment’s pause. She was clearly now standing right by their black and white showpiece.

“No, I called you, Anja!” called Ben back. “I’m feeling faint and need some fresh air urgently. Could you unzip us?”

Ben felt Marcel shuddering again in his arms as he spoke. Instinctively Ben moved his hands upwards and rubbed his friend on his chest supportively. There was obviously no way Marcel would be appreciating Ben’s hands so close to his bladder and groin in this situation.

As Anja opened their costume, separating the two halves of the cow and freeing the lads from their bovine prison, Ben launched into a hasty monologue directed at Anja but also watched by all the other farmyard-clad guys and girls who had all stopped dancing, plus goodness knows how many members of the public at the sides of the street. “Sorry, I’m about to collapse in a faint. Marcel’s just going to take me out of the crowds for a moment till I’ve recovered. We’ll come back later or give you a ring to let you know!”

At this point Frank, the lad in the parakeet costume who had accepted most of Ben’s bottle of heineken nearly two hours before, was seen to take advantage of the interruption by throwing off his huge plastic wings onto the floor of the trailer and, still in the rest of his colourful costume, jumping off the slow-moving vehicle before sprinting over to a lamppost at the side of the street where the crowd was less deep than at other points. The two startled men who had been leaning against this lamppost were seen to recoil as Frank frantically pulled down the red lycra tights which were part of his costume to expose his boxer shorts, extracted his dick, and immediately unleashed a spray of pee against it.

Frank’s action successfully diverted everyone’s attention in time to disguise the fact that it was the supposedly faint lad in the back part of the cow who energetically ushered his friend, who was still wearing the cow’s head and waddling awkwardly, off the slowly moving float, rather than the other way round. Both were still wearing their respective halves of the complete cow costume. Ben started to step out of his half as they moved to the side of the road, but Marcel kept his on including the head. Ben looked at him, then nodded in the direction of Frank as if to suggest that Marcel should do what Frank was doing, but Marcel just continued to walk awkwardly forward, his hand on Ben’s arm as they made their progress through the crowd at the side, Ben being that much better able to see where they were going since he was not hampered by the cow’s head.

“Don’t you need to take a leak somewhere?” said Ben as soon as they were out of anyone’s earshot.

Marcel’s reply was uttered in a monotone voice in which Ben could not read any particular emotion. “Could you just take me back to the hotel, please?”

“Okay,” replied Ben heading for the Bijenkorf carpark where he had left his car. He was unfamiliar with this city and had been unable to monitor the progress of the procession from his position in the back of the cow, but by good fortune the carpark was actually signposted as a mere 300 metres away from where they were standing. “Aren’t you going to take the costume off, or at least take the head off so you can see where you are going properly?” he added as Marcel continued to stumble awkwardly after him as they made their way through the streets.

“No,” replied Marcel in a cracked voice. “Just get me back to the hotel.”

Realising what this probably meant, and not wishing to press Marcel any further when he seemed to be so upset, Ben led the way further to the carpark, paid for the ticket, and ushered the devastated lad to his car. As Marcel got into the passenger seat and took the cow-head off revealing his handsome face, Ben felt he did need to check a detail with Marcel before they set off: “Um, Marcel, it’s a half hour drive back to Soerendonk. Did you pee it all out in your pants, or do you want to go to the toilet before we leave?” As he asked this he nodded to a far corner of the parking garage where there were customer toilets.

“Neither. I can’t go in there like this.” Marcel indicated his groin which was still hidden by the material of the cow costume but, as Ben could already judge from the smell of fresh pee which was emanating from Marcel now that the car doors were closed, was very likely saturated. “Please just take me back as quickly as you can, will you Ben?”

“Sure, don’t worry about it,” Ben replied, starting the engine.

They were driving out into the streets of Eindhoven when Marcel spoke again. “Ben, you won’t tell anyone will you? Please, please don’t tell Anja.”

“Of course not, you know she thinks you’re helping me now,” replied Ben. “No-one else needs to know about this.”

After a few minutes of further silence, Marcel just groaned. Ben was by now efficiently bypassing the Carnaval-fever of Eindhoven city centre and was heading for the A2 motorway, but he glanced sympathetically at Marcel again. “Just don’t worry about it, Marcel, please. We’ll get you back to the hotel and showered and changed, then you’ll be fine again.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got to pee again now,” moaned Marcel. “I can’t hold it till we’re there. I need to go now!”

An empty plastic bottle which Ben immediately extracted from the glove compartment provided Marcel’s necessary relief. As Marcel finally pulled the black and white cow costume away from his lap in preparation to urinate into the bottle, Ben glanced briefly away from the road to take in the sight of Marcel’s blue jeans, which he had been gazing at for so long during the procession from inside the cow costume, now streaked with wetness all over the crotch and down the legs. After Marcel’s trembling fingers undid the soaking flies Ben sneaked another glance at Marcel’s medium-sized, well proportioned dick as he positioned this against the opening of the bottle and let go a healthy stream of clear piss.

The sound of Marcel’s stream hissing into the plastic bottle was interrupted by his mobile phone ringing. “Just ignore it, Marcel,” advised Ben. “If it’s Anja you can call her back later.”

Marcel grunted his agreement and then, as he gradually filled the bottle and let the terrible tension ebb away and out of him, started to cry quietly. His sobs were muted by the continued ringing of his telephone, but Ben was still fully aware of the lad’s emotional release and, while continuing to drive, reached across with one hand to gently squeeze Marcel’s knee in support. Ben was fully aware that if a guy is peeing in front of you, especially a straight guy, you can best not even look at him let alone touch him. But somehow Ben felt that this was okay given that he and Marcel had already been so intimately physical with each other in that cow suit, and Marcel seemed so needy at the moment; now, here in the privacy of his car, it just seemed the most natural thing in the world to touch Marcel’s knee, which was damp from his little accident, as he filled a bottle with all the remaining contents of his bladder.

Marcel’s phone stopped ringing after a while, but the ringing started again just as he finally put the nearly full plastic bottle down and started to stuff his damp dick back into his soaking wet jeans. With a gasp of exasperation, Marcel grabbed the phone and punched it’s answer button. Ben then listened to one side of an increasingly heated telephone conversation as he joined the A2 motorway on the way towards Soerendonk.

“Yeah? Hi, yeah… No, he’s alright now. … Yes, he wasn’t feeling well. We’re going back to the hotel. … Why? … No, we’ll join you later. I’ll let you know. … Why? … NO! … Rubbish, Ben’s a good friend and I’m not letting him down. If he’s not well I’m going back with him until he’s alright again! … No, YOU can deal with that, it’s not my problem, I’m staying with Ben!” And with that Marcel cut the call off and hurled his phone angrily down into his footwell.

“Take it easy, mate,” murmered Ben, concerned.

“She’s a cow! She wants me to go back, but I’m staying with you! She said she thinks you were faking it!” A pause followed. “You WERE faking it, come to think of it. You were covering for me. Thanks, mate,” he added to Ben.

For the first time since his disaster on the trailer, Marcel looked across and smiled weakly at Ben.

Ben grinned back and grabbed Marcel’s knee once again, rubbing it emphatically. “You’re welcome, man. Let’s get you back to your hotel room where you can shower and change. You’ll soon feel better!”

But Marcel’s smile suddenly vanished again. “Oh SHHHH…T!”

“What now?” asked Ben, mystified.

“She’s got our room key. Oh Ben, I can’t get into my hotel room! Anja’s got the key!” He looked distraught.

“No problem, mate,” replied Ben calmly. “We’ll head for my room. You can shower there, and then I’ve got a spare pair of sweatpants which will fit you. You can have them for the rest of the weekend. Let’s get back and sort you out. Then let’s just take it easy, alright? We can stay back at the hotel and relax until we’ve recovered from all the drama, then we’ll head back into the city when you’re feeling better and we’re both in the mood. And not before!”

“Yeah, let’s do that,” replied Marcel with a relieved smile. “Thanks Ben. Cheers, mate!”

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