A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



I do,” she said, and it was done.

Mother smiled, Ralf smiled, Klaus took her by the hand and welcomed Mrs Annie Grable into his world, and in a confusion of best wishes and don’t forget your mother loves you and things that were forgotten the moment they were said the young couple went home before they set out for that memorable honeymoon far from the familiar back alleys of Goosedown.

Please listen,” she whispered to the window or the ceramic thrush or both, “no woman anywhere could have been happier. You see, Klaus really did believe that I was perfect! He was wrong, of course, nobody’s perfect, least of all me, though I suppose I was naive and innocent, so innocent that it wasn’t until that first night of married bliss that I finally understood what the little boy, what was his name? I don’t remember names so well much more, was it Sam? Sam Pendy? Maybe it was him, but it was about seeing how high up a black wall in the school toilets he could direct his wee. At last I discovered how it was possible!

I told Klaus about it, and he laughed and told me it was a sort of competition he and his friends at school played half-heartedly when they were small as well. It was, he said, something boys could do that girls couldn’t and it crossed my mind back then that it was probably one of the very few things boys could do that girls couldn’t if they were allowed to.”

The ceramic thrush silently approved. Wordlessly and mutely it told Annie that boys could fight wars, could aim arrows from bows, fire guns, kill without thinking twice about it because following orders was what it was all about. And the feathered thrush outside frowned because it was a boy thrush and wouldn’t hurt a soul, though it might be up to pecking out the eyes of marauding cats…

But she learned a lot that first night of marriage. She learned the physical things, the bizarre differences between males and females, the silly vestigial n*****s on a man’s chest, the hair growing just about everywhere that hair shouldn’t grow, and he wasn’t very old. Old men could get hairy, she knew that, though how she knew she wasn’t so sure, but young men? Right, it was fine downy hair, but it was still hair.

And she learned that there were intimacies beyond her imagination, moments of tenderness crowned with the shooting ecstasies of orgasm that left her feeling more than merely loved. She felt worshipped. Yes, that’s what it was. The final proof, if proof were ever called for or needed, that men need women and women need men in a kind of balance that nothing except death can break. And she learned that all in a small part of one first night honeymooning with Klaus.

As she remembered that sacred beginning to her life with Klaus she knew one vital thing, that it explained more than words could why her own mother had been so broken had been when her own precious love, her Bert, had been shot during the last days of the Great War. Of course it did! It put everything into perspective. Some things, she realised, have to be experienced before they can be properly understood, and if they aren’t ever experienced they can’t ever be in a person’s own repertoire of life.

We had a lovely honeymoon,” she whispered to herself, though the window or the ceramic thrush could listen in if they wanted. “The good thing was Klaus’s car. Not many young men could afford cars, but somehow, despite being rather poorly paid as an art salesman at the art gallery where Ralf’s pictures had been displayed, he had managed to buy an elderly but functioning car, and they spent their fortnight doing an amazing range of things, nights here and there in bed and breakfast places, the odd hotel where they could get a proper bath and, of course, the tent.

Klaus had a tent. A simple, ordinary tent that was just about big enough for two. And when they found themselves in what he called in between places they used the tent.

When you’re young,” she told the window, “and your flesh is flexible then there’s nothing much better than making love in a tent, and we did that sort of thing as often as we could. Mother would have been outraged if she’d known!”

Then she laughed to herself. “Of course she wouldn’t!” she sighed, “Mother would have been doing much the same thing herself!”

She didn’t like to think of it, but was sure it must be true. Maybe back towards the end of the war when Bert, her father, had been home to recuperate following an injury at the front during the war they had behaved like that too. If Mother had felt like that it was perfectly understandable. Suddenly, she totally knew that must be true, and the outcome of it was her own existence.

It was how I came to be,” she whispered with a smile.

The thrush outside put in a sudden reappearance and knocked almost cheekily on her window.

I know,” she told it, “you’re free, and I’m not. Well, I don’t suppose it can be helped. But during that magical fortnight on one memorable occasion Klaus pitched our tent … I say our tent, but it was really his, in a small field. He asked the farmer of course, and bought some milk and eggs from him so that we could have breakfast. And that was a magical time, the first in my life that I’d felt truly free.

The weather was balmy, but it did rain briefly during the night, and even that was perfect, the two of us entangled close together but safe in a fragile canvas cocoon. And the gentle pattering sounds of the night, rather than detract, added to the most perfect of perfect experiences.

We did all the lover’s things, of course, more than once that night and it would be wonderful if I could believe that was when Daniel was conceived, but it wasn’t. I was pretty hopeless in those days of keeping track of my body and making mental notes of my periods and such. I didn’t really fully understand that the games we were playing might lead to me becoming pregnant, though I wasn’t stupid and sort of understood the facts of life without personalising them. All I knew was that I loved him and wanted it to go on and on for ever.”

The thrush flew way again, suddenly, as if it had spotted danger, maybe that half blind cat, something threatening, and she was left with the ceramic imitation, just as beautiful but its feathers weren’t real and its beak never made the slightest sound.

We spent one night on a beach,” she whispered, this time to herself, “no tent, just a warm breeze and us, away from prying eyes, away from everything, like primeval people in a primeval world. And, you know, we dared to be naked, on a towel, a blue one I recall! Together and far from prying eyes, we hoped, we lay together naked as the days we had been born. An old fox, straying from the land, spotted us, but he trotted off, smirking. Foxes do look as if they’re smirking, don't you think?”

She didn’t hear a ceramic reply, but then, she didn't expect to.

Why did you agree to my proposal?” he asked her as they lay huddled together on the large blue towel, “when I asked you if you’d marry me? All I knew of you was an angel in a painting. But what did you know of me?”

Nothing,” she said, “that was the fun of it, the adventure. And when we married, you and me, I knew we’d be perfect together. It was your eyes, I suppose, the way they looked at me. You’ve got nice eyes, Klaus. But then you know that. I bet that’s what all the girls tell you!”

He grinned back at her. “There haven’t been many,” he said quietly, “in fact until I saw you in that picture I didn’t really like girls. There was one, way back when I was still at school, a nasty piece of work if ever there was one but with beautiful wavy hair, and she really set about upsetting me every time she could, and I knew it would be wrong to retaliate. I don't believe in hitting girls and she knew I wouldn’t. It was my name, you see. She knew I was German and remembered what she’d been told about the Great War.”

It’s in the past,” said Annie, “old battles must be forgotten or they go on being fought for ever. My dad was killed in that war, before I was born. It hurt my mum unbelievably badly, but if she could forgive you, a German, then so could I. And there’s your lovely eyes, of course!”

My dad perished in that bloody war too,” sighed Klaus, “maybe killed by your dad, who knows? But it’s in the past and best put aside. Not forgotten, not indeed, but put to one side as past terrible events that need remembering in order for those memories to guide us. We must discover a way to learn from our mistakes, or there will be a long trail of increasingly bloody wars in front of us...”

Annie smiled at him. “Then kiss me again,” she said, “and hope another war never comes.”

And pray,” he whispered, “to whatever gods might be.”

But they both knew that dark forces were gathering across the English Channel.

© Peter Rogerson 15.05.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

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Added on May 15, 2020
Last Updated on May 15, 2020
Tags: honeymoon, relationship, camping, the shadow of war


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

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A Chapter by Peter Rogerson