Welcome to the newest slot on my blog, the Sunday night Novel Nights In where I bring you guests’ novels in their entirety over a maximum of ten weeks. Tonight’s is the fifth instalment of the first novel in this series and features the second section of Book 2 (of three) of a novel by literary author, poet and interviewee Rose Mary Boehm.
For shorter pieces I would run the story then talk more about it afterwards but because this is a longer post, here is an introduction to Rose then the fifth part of her novel…
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm now lives and works in Lima, Peru. Two novels (‘Coming Up For Air’ and the follow-up ‘The Telling’) have been published in the UK, as well as a poetry collection (‘Tangents’). Her latest poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in US poetry reviews. Among others: Toe Good Poetry, Poetry Breakfast, Burning Word, Muddy River Review, Pale Horse Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Other Rooms, Requiem Magazine, Full of Crow, Poetry Quarterly, Punchnel’s, Verse Wisconsin, Naugatuck Poetry Review (contest semi-finalist), Avatar…
Her poem ‘Miss Worthington’ won third price in the coveted Margaret Reid Poetry Contest: http://winningwriters.com/contests/margaret/2009/ma09_epaminondas.php
You can find out more about Rose and her writing at her blog: http://houseboathouse.blogspot.com, and you can also read one of Rose’s short stories on http://shortstorywritinggroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/short-story-for-critique-003-mrs-boffa-by-rose-mary-boehm.
Coming Up For Air
A young girl’s struggle to take control of her life – click to read Book I: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Book 2: Part 1. If you don’t want to wait the 10 weeks for the whole story, you can purchase Coming Up for Air at Amazon.com (just $2.95) Amazon.co.uk (only £1.87). The rest of the ‘adventures of Annie’ can be read in THE TELLING.
Gisela and I had finished our homework. The late afternoon sun was about to sink behind the horizon when we decided to walk very fast along the towpath by the canal to see whether we could be fast enough and ‘catch’ it before it disappeared. We knew it was impossible and just a game.
We talk while we walk. Suddenly Gisela stops. “Do you think it’s true about how they make babies?”
“What do you mean… that the man lies on top of the woman?”
“Well, yes, and that he puts his willie into her hole.”
That’s not something anyone ever told me about and definitely hasn’t occurred to me. I have never seen my brother other than at least wearing his underpants, and my father never ever walks through the house in his underwear or even in a dressing gown. I have only ever seen him fully dressed. Still, I have an idea what a ‘willie’ is, I am not that dumb, but the idea that anybody should ‘stick his willie into my hole’ gives me the creeps.
To Gisela I pretend I know exactly what she is talking about. I am too embarrassed to let on that I just discovered how backward I am. So I say boldly, “Of course it’s true, but it’s really disgusting, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ll go for it.”
“Neither shall I. I’ve thought about it often. And I don’t understand how my mother could actually do it with my father…”
Now there’s a thought. This, of course, is a revelation. When I get home I look at my parents with different eyes and decide that they are really quite despicable and that I’ll never, ever…
I took high school very seriously and actually enjoyed it. The school was in another part of town, and in the winter we took the tram which rattled past the coking plants, the steel works and even through some leafy roads lined with sycamore trees. In early spring we’d go by bike. There were usually three of us, three girls. We lived very close to one another and became good friends over the years almost by default. With Gisela I discovered how babies are made and with Helga I learned how to smoke.
Helga’s mother works and isn’t home yet. That’s why the three of us are alone in her house – Gisela, Helga and I. After sneaking in to see ‘Les Diaboliques’ we realised that we have to do something or we’ll be hopelessly left behind. Not smoking clearly marks us as little girls of no importance, and therefore smoking is one of the first things we have to learn how to do.
Helga has stolen a handful of cigarettes from her mother, one by one so she wouldn’t notice. We each take one and hold it awkwardly, imagining we are Simone Signoret, Rita Hayworth or Betty Grable. Helga holds a match to each one, and we suck the air through the cigarette to make it glow. The smoke fills my mouth and stings, tasting of unpleasant and smoke-filled memories. We hold the smoke in our mouths for a moment before we let it drift out again.
“I don’t think that’s how it’s done,” says Helga. “When my mother smokes she inhales it, it stays in her body for a while and then she exhales and the smoke comes out with her breath, sometimes through her nose.”
“Alright, let’s try…”
The next puff has us inhaling and immediately coughing until our eyes water and sting. We double over, nearly vomiting, and we look at each other with tears in our eyes – we look pale grey to green.
“Okay, guys. This needs practise. Since everyone smokes, it can’t be difficult to get used to it.” By the end of the afternoon we feel rather sick but triumphant: we don’t cough any more, our eyes don’t water, and we hold and light the ‘glimmersticks’ like old pros, ready to conquer the grown-up world, ready to enter a party with something to hold on to, ready to give us the air of utter sophistication and experience. Now we have to practice the ‘look’ (think Lauren Bacall) and we’ll be complete.
We’d meet up by the local cinema and from there go to school together – either by tram or by bike, depending on the time of year. On the way we were sometimes met by boys who used the same route but, living closer to the school, joined later. We never actually agreed to meet, but when it happened we were particularly giggly and slightly hysterical.
Our French teacher doubles her duties and has us once a week for religion. Even though I like it, I’m usually in trouble because I just can’t get my head around certain Bible stories and their interpretations. As far as I am concerned, some of the stuff just doesn’t add up.
“Well, when you say that Judas will roast in hell for his betrayal of Jesus, I disagree.”
“I think that Judas got a bonus when he got to heaven. And I do think he went to heaven.”
“Why is this then, Anne? Why would you think Judas could get anywhere near heaven?”
“Because he did them all a favour, didn’t he … if it hadn’t been for him, the Big Plan wouldn’t have succeeded. Somebody had to do it. So, I suppose, Jesus and God ought to have been grateful.”
I am really very serious, but the class giggles. They think I do this on purpose to sideline Fräulein Franzen and make her forget what’s on the syllabus for today. Judas – and many other aspects of our Bible studies – just have me baffled. There is no way, I think, that logic and belief need to be mutually exclusive, and to me it’s logical that all the players get a fair deal.
Then there is this thing about ‘God Knoweth Best’ which implies that I know very little… So if I ask God for things and then have to say ‘But not as I want it, but as You want it for me in Your wisdom’, I give God carte blanche and may as well not have bothered. If I ask for a beautiful bicycle and God thinks that’s a bad idea, he won’t give it to me. So why ask?
Then we are being taught that the universe doesn’t lose anything, it just transforms. That’s physics. But physics has to be applied to all things. So, if that’s how things are, then my thoughts are matter, and it must be as bad to want to kill someone as it is to actually kill him. And if that’s so, my soul can’t just disappear after I die, since the universe doesn’t lose anything.
I read that in India they believe in reincarnation. Now that begins to make sense. My soul goes on forever and sometimes is transformed into a body and sometimes it’s in a non-body state. I try to imagine where the non-bodies go to while they hang around until they come back again, but all I can think of is that they are probably peacefully sleeping somewhere until they are woken up to go back.
When I hear people say, ‘God is so cruel. Why did He allow this baby to die? It didn’t even have a chance to live…” I think that life isn’t all that hot anyway – at least from what I can detect so far – and then I have a feeling that God doesn’t ‘allow’ anything. He just doesn’t get that actively involved. He got the creation ball rolling and then retired into a benign but remote presence to let us get on with it.
I imagine that the soul probably makes a deal in its non-body place: ‘I go down there even though it’s not my turn yet. But don’t you dare to leave me there longer than the three years you promised. I am willing to teach these people about loving and losing and heartbreak, but don’t you trick me! And don’t forget: I get another 150,000 years bonus for that!’
There is no way I can make my teacher understand any of this. She isn’t even willing to consider the options. So I get sent out of class yet again and have to write 100 times ‘I must not be so obnoxious’. For tomorrow.
The Catholic and the Protestant children go to different churches. Services are held each Thursday morning.
I am a Lutheran – that’s a bit closer to the Catholics than the Protestants or the Reformed Church, but since I don’t go to confession, don’t do the Holy Water, don’t cross myself, don’t believe that Maria is up there on the same level as Jesus and don’t pray to Saints, I have to go to the Protestant church.
The sermon is always making my eyelids fall shut. The pastor talks with a droning sameness, and what he says is just so off. I keep myself awake by practising wobbling my ears. Father can do it, so why can’t I? Sometimes it works, but only the right one. After a few Thursdays the other kids begin to notice and giggle when I succeed.
There were so many things with which I didn’t agree. But the whole question of ‘sin’ had me truly vexed. Time and again the pastor got into this ‘sin’ bit. When he talked about sin he got quite passionate and woke us up. Against the light from the high stained-glass window we could see spittle flying from his mouth in rainbow colours – that’s how excited he became. We were like ‘worms in the earth’, ‘sand by the sea’, ‘evil’, ‘in league with the devil’… but God created us all. And that’s where it didn’t click for me.
If God is God and He is all powerful and perfect, than His creation must be perfect too. After all, on Sunday, He looked at it all and was very content with His creation: ‘… and He saw that it was good’. In other words, I am also His creation, and He only creates perfection. So how can I be this ‘shit in the bog’ thing that’s not worthy to even ‘raise its face up into the path of God’s light…’? Where does this leave me? Dare I believe perhaps that they all get it wrong when it comes to ‘sin’ and that it’s not really ‘sin’ at all, but a soul trying out the body state? Or will God smite me the moment I even think this way?
Well, God hasn’t smitten me, but I am still not sure whether I am allowed to think about it all and evaluate the truth as ‘they’ tell it against my feeling of what is true. ‘They’ just may be right … But the thought doesn’t go away. If the universe doesn’t lose anything, if my soul is forever, and forever is with God, and if I come back from time to time in a new ‘suit’, that is, a new body, and if the body is animal and the soul is God, then the battle between the two is perhaps what they call ‘sin’, but it’s nothing but a battle we all have to fight and hopefully win, so that we go back to the non-body state a little wiser, ready for a rest before we go into battle again.
One day, after preparation for my Confirmation into the church, I stay behind and put this puzzling question to the pastor.
His face grows sterner and sterner. Then he gets up – he is a big man – his face turns worryingly red, and his voice booms down at me: “You… you are evil itself! The devil himself is talking through you! Get out at once! Get away from me! You can’t be confirmed! I’ll talk to your parents – and your poor father, such a good, Christian man…” He shoos me out of the door as one would a recalcitrant chicken.
We saw little of Father. When he wasn’t at work, he’d be in what had become ‘Father’s study’ reading the Bible, and at least at two evenings per week he’d be at the Evangelical Society. Sister Hulda ran the show and I hated her with all my heart. It had soon become clear to me that she had ‘taken my father away’, and whenever I met her she urged me to ‘follow Jesus’. I was well and truly sick of them all. There she was with her black habit, the little bun in her neck, the starched, white ‘thing’ on her head, starched white ribbons tied under her chin, always with a self-righteous, beatific smile, sweetly greeting everyone as though she thought she herself was Jesus…
A few times I allowed Father to take me there, thinking I’d rather be bored with him than missing him when he left the house again. But every time I went and had a good look at everyone, I got more depressed. The girls never wore high heels, fashionable clothes, lipstick or painted their nails. Their hair was either woven in plats or tied into buns. Their thick-stockinged legs ended in sensible shoes, and most of them played the recorder to accompany the services. The boys were just as dull, and the older men and women were almost invisible. There was an old harmonium, wheezing with emphysema when it was played, badly, usually by Sister Hulda who’d be pumping the pedals with big, heavy feet, black stockings wrinkled at the ankles. They sang the hymns with enthusiasm, voices hunting the right note elsewhere before nearly getting it right.
Sermons that opened each gathering came from Sister Hulda, and each member of the little congregation had a turn at Bible reading. Then it was all explained to those who still didn’t get it.
“Jesus is God’s only son …He was made flesh and died for our sins …we live in His glory and sing with His joy…” If it’s all so glorious and joyful, why does everyone look to bloody miserable?
One evening, when I leave, Sister Hulda holds my hands in hers and won’t let go. She looks at me with that sickening smile: “The devil has his claws in you and I desperately want to rescue you.” I wish I could throw up.
That was the last time I accompanied Father and said ‘goodbye’ to him a second time (or was it a third?). I now felt truly abandoned.
One afternoon I entered Father’s study to look up something I needed for my homework. He was sitting at his table, not reading the Bible but working on equations – pages of equations. I was surprised and curious.
“What are you calculating?”
“Oh, just trying to find out how many other planets would be out there with life as we know it on Earth.”
Now this is fascinating stuff. I am hooked enough to stay and find out more.
“Well, did you find any?”
“How many did you find?”
“Oh, not that many, around one hundred million squared.”
“What, you call that ‘not many’?”
“Well, the real amount in all universes is mind-boggling… what I had to do was deduct all those that could have life, but are still in the amoebae state – not something we would recognise or be able to communicate with; then I had to exclude all those that are far too advanced and to whom we’d only be like amoebae…”
“And that left only one hundred million squared? Wow!”
For a moment, I don’t know what to say. My anger is back. I feel betrayed by this father who could open worlds for me, whose mind is so exciting and adventurous and who normally only talks about God and sweet little Jesus. I feel the venom rising: “That’s interesting, Father. But how does that ‘square’ with your God then? All of a sudden we down here may not be the only ones. Doesn’t that worry you?”
He looks at me, his almost ice-blue eyes full of love: “My darling, for a God who is the creator, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, a being all-mighty, all-powerful, all-knowing, what are a measly one hundred million planets – even if that’s a squared number?”
He’s got me. I can see immediately that he thinks so much bigger than all these people with whom he shares most of his spare time. It does feel good. At least I can’t despise him any longer. But there remains a question: “Father, how can you be with all those ‘Sister Huldas’? How can you bear it?”
“Anne, my sweet, God loves us all. I know that many of these people in the Society haven’t been given the gift of overwhelming brainpower, but I can open their eyes to many things they wouldn’t see without me and, more often than not, they teach me something vital about simple acceptance and faith. Once you stop questioning everything with your mind and your ego, both cheating you all the time, it can be easy. And whatever I can contribute to their lives I do happily and willingly. God has given me so much, I owe Him.”
Well, perhaps I can live with that.
In my left hand I hold several brushes and a makeshift palette. On an easel in front of me stands a canvas of 50 x 80 cm, and in my right hand I hold a medium-size brush. My new teacher stands behind me and, with his brush and some dark brown paint shows me how to plan the basic structure of a painting.
He had primed the canvass for me. “You have to be clear about the difference between painting and drawing. What we are doing here is simply planning the composition and placement. Do it in charcoal or with oil paint and a brush. At this stage you can bring out areas that will eventually be dark – plan ahead. Imagine the finished painting in your head. Painting is not a dreamy ‘let’s see what happens next’ but a very conscious process.
“When you paint, you ‘draw’ lines by making one colour meet another and you create the illusion of three dimensions with light and shade. When you are happy with your plan, mix enough of the colours that correspond to overall tones you want to use and start ‘massing’. At this stage don’t worry about the details.”
I had joined a small group of local artists, and Albert Gransberg, a prominent member, had offered to teach me the rudiments of portrait painting, his speciality. The group had reluctantly accepted me on the basis of my drawings. Some felt that, at almost 13, I was too young, but they were overruled by those who wanted ‘to nurture young talent’.
Herr Gransberg was the youngest of the group. A man in his mid-thirties, he was handsome in a rugged way and tall. He had dark hair which he kept a little longer than was the fashion at the time. I liked that.
I didn’t like the fact that I studied what I considered ‘that old stuff’. By then I had hungrily devoured books on modern art – every time she saw me coming, the librarian fished out another stack on whatever they had – and in my head I had accumulated a bewildering mess of the art that up to then had passed me by because I’d been little, and because in Hitler’s Germany art was limited to what Hitler considered appropriate. He encouraged the artists who were able ‘to impress upon the State of the German people the cultural stamp of the Germanic race’, and to represent the ‘ideals of the community’. The exciting and enthusiastic experiments of ‘modern art’ had had no place in the Third Reich.
By the time I started to paint, I had decided that I wanted colour, freedom of form and technique, magic, fun, and, of course, also any amount of serious suffering as expressed in paintings and sculptures by Käthe Kollwitz, the first woman member of the Prussian Academy of Art in Berlin, but expelled as early as 1933.
Käthe Kollwitz had wanted her work to reflect the conditions of daily life: “Where do all the women who have watched so carefully over their loved ones get the heroism to send them to face the cannon? I toy with the thought of a sculpture where mothers stand in a circle defending their children – as a sculpture in the round.” The Nazis were quick to banish her work and had their answer ready: “In the Third Reich mothers have no need to defend their children. That’s done by the State.”
Apart from flirting with suffering, socialism and death like most adolescents – I even felt compelled to write poetry and prose exploring pain – I saw the magic in art as colour and exuberance, challenging the rules and, more importantly, the ‘new’ art had hit me all at once. Had I lived and grown up anywhere else, these artists and their works would have been casually familiar to me – even if I hadn’t sought them out specially. As it was, I felt as perhaps a blind person would who could suddenly see. The wonder of it all made me breathless.
Marc Chagall, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso… All these names and so many more held true magic, and I would look for hours at reproductions of their paintings in my library books, trying to enter this unimagined world of wonder. This was what I wanted to paint, these were the adventures of the soul I wanted to join, these were the conjuring tricks played with form and colour, a new alchemy that turned every-day clay feet into flights of Icarus’ daring.
But I studied once a week with Albert Gransberg in his studio. In exchange for lessons I’d agreed to be his model from time to time. I hated sitting still, but Herr Gransberg painted very fast, and also I felt a little flattered by the exclusive attention he lavished on me while he painted.
I tried to tell him about my wild dreams, about being a new and unique Picasso, or Chagall… “Look dear, before you can run, learn to walk. All these guys studied their stuff. They can out-paint any conventional painter any day. Learn your craft. Once you understand how ‘painting’ works and once you are secure with painting a realistic cup, a flower, a face, you can take off and make it what you want it to be.”
The smell of oil paints and turpentine is intoxicating and transports me to a world where I am a real painter, in my own studio, light which doesn’t leave shadows entering from a huge northern window.
Very carefully I squeeze out paint from the various tubes and watch with fascination as colours merge and transform. As yellow and blue shyly become green I experiment with the mix and create many greens – from a yellowish spring green to a dark, ominous green that’s almost black. Just the names of colours free poetic thoughts: cadmium, ochre, cobalt, indigo … Herr Gransberg tells me that ‘black’ and ‘white’ aren’t colours.
When I paint at home, I use the back of thin hardboard. Hardboard is cheap enough for Mother’s budget, and the back has a rough texture and, after being primed, serves the purpose.
Because the Richters are building a house and will move in a few months’ time, Mother has bought me a second-hand piano which now has to double as an easel when I paint. I use the fold-down sheet-music holder for the hardboard, covering the keyboard with newspapers.
Herr Gransberg has asked me to call him Albert.
I am determined to learn how to create three-dimensional illusions by using light and shade and paint a portrait using only shades of blue. Albert is following my progress with great interest and leans over me from time to time to hold my hand and the brush, re-mixing white and blue on my palette and, with a few touches brings out the forehead, rounds the cheeks, makes the lips full and gives life to the eyes.
His left hand is holding my shoulder. Now he moves it down to hold my arm. He squeezes it rather hard and leans into my back. I shiver.
I am sitting for Albert again. He has asked me to ‘get my butt’ into an old wooden armchair. I have seen some of his sitters filling the chair, making it appear small. When I lean back in it, the chair seems huge and I feel a bit lost. Albert stands behind his canvas and looks at me with this intense look of his that gives my goose pimples. After some brush strokes he shakes his head and walks towards me.
He bends forward and opens the clasp that holds part of my hair and lets it fall over my face. He returns to the canvas and looks at me some more.
“Darling, open your blouse, just a few buttons at the top. I want to see the tips your little titties…”
I suddenly feel weak all over and know that I am blushing. I don’t know where to look and what to do, so I just sit there and do nothing.
“Darling, I only want to paint you. Come on. The light is perfect just now!”
He walks towards me. I feel paralysed and stupid. With his left hand he opens the top buttons of my shirt and opens it wide until one of the painful little lumps that I hope will become breasts one day sticks out. I am deeply ashamed. He playfully passes his brush over my nipple and leaves a reddish smear. “Are you wearing knickers?” He picks up my left leg and lifts it over the armrest of the chair shifting my skirt up to expose my thigh.
Back at his easel he looks at me and nods. “Move your skirt up a bit more, my sweet…”
After what seemed like hours of paralysis I can move again, put my leg back on the floor and fumble with my shirt buttons. My heart is beating hard, my face feels hot and my legs don’t work terribly well. I try to regain some control while some strangely agreeable panic is rising to my throat. Not looking at Albert I manage to grab my jacket and open the studio door walking the few steps to the street on legs made of jelly.
Albert opens his studio window and shouts after me, “Don’t be silly, darling, it’s alright … don’t worry … see you next week – same time!”
Once a year, the group exhibited together. The show consisted of an eclectic mix of subjects, standards and styles. Most of the painters were passionate amateurs. There were harsh industry scapes; Italian landscapes and Venice as it would have been painted around the turn of the century by the romantics; capably executed local views and portraits, even a few studies based on ideas as proposed by anthroposophy. Talent and proficiency, on a scale from 0 to 10, moved between perhaps four and eight.
The basic idea behind the group was to have a place where enthusiasts could get together, exchange views, learn from each other, relax in each other’s company, have a beer, use outings to paint ‘on location’ as an excuse for a picnic, a bottle of wine … but also to feel like ‘artists’, ‘different’; it was mainly a group of small-town would-be bohemians.
I am invited to hang a few paintings and drawings in the group’s next communal exhibition. Of course I am excited but also scared. I fear the eyes of the world on what I suspect are still rather feeble efforts. Mother is of course thrilled to bits. I think Mother would be thrilled about anything I do as long as it gives her an opening to talk about ‘my daughter, the artist’… or translate this into ‘my daughter, the writer’. I think that ‘my daughter, the doctor’ is no longer on her list of achievables.
Having progressed from practising what Albert calls ‘the craft’, I decide to contribute five big paintings from my Expressionist period. I tried desperately to paint in the style of the Expressionists I admire so much without having been able to truly add anything new and make my paintings totally mine. I can feel what’s missing and promise myself that I’ll work doubly hard to try and understand how to add the magic ingredient which nobody can put into words.
My brother makes some wooden frames that almost fit together in the corners.
In the exhibition hall I hover around like a mother hen, curious to hear what people say, knowing that I’ll slink home like a beaten dog should anyone say ‘what utter rubbish’.
How I suffered. Even though it didn’t become clear to me until quite a bit later, I began to feel the warning shots of something extremely dangerous: despite of my rebellious thoughts and their often spontaneous expression, I wanted to please. Needed to be praised. Couldn’t afford to make mistakes. During those days of my first exhibition, I began to sense my weakness and the limits it would put on my creative freedom and relationships – present and future – if I didn’t shake this unhealthy need. Somehow.
Our art teacher took the whole form to see the exhibition. Fräulein Behrend was one of our younger teachers, attractive and fashionable. We had crushes on some of our younger teachers, whether male or female. Young teachers were something new and exciting. We had no idea that teachers could be young and ‘with it’. The new teacher-training colleges churned out the first post-war generation of teachers – mostly young women. Immediately after the War the need was filled by those who had survived the bombings, the hunger, the cold. Especially the male teachers were long past their sell-by date: it was the generation that had been too old to be drafted.
After all of us had been to see the exhibition, relations with my fellow students worsened, and many treated me with a mixture of awe, anger and contempt. ‘Teachers’ pet’ was the least offensive expression used to describe Annie Becker. But after someone coined my new nickname the teasing became less vicious. It seemed that calling me ‘Picasso’ was enough to satisfy their need to put me in my place, since Picasso was generally reviled as a fraud.
As though things weren’t bad enough, the yearly group concert with Herr Kirchner is coming up. All his pupils perform. I’ve done it once before and it’s scary. But this time I’d prefer to sink into a deep hole because I am sure that some of my classmates will learn about it and come to snicker. But since I still haven’t learned how to say ‘no’ in a nice way I begin to practice as though obsessed. I’ve chosen Beethoven’s Sonata Opus 2, No. 1, in F minor. In school we have a new music teacher.
The old one was a bad-tempered tyrant, short of stature, his reddish-grey hair standing up wildly as though permanently affected by static electricity, round thick lenses in amber-coloured heavy frames, who’d scream at us with a hoarse voice, throwing anything at hand – usually the song book – in the rough direction of a crooked note coming from the choir, even when we sang for parent day. That meant we had to get the song book back to him as soon as possible or he’d get even madder. He often held out his hand for the book, putting it and his glasses back upside down, swearing, and wondering why he couldn’t read the music and why his glasses kept falling down, while we were wetting ourselves suppressing outright laughter.
Our new teacher is young, tall, and quite handsome – or so we think. He has longer than normal dark, wavy hair and wears an old grey suit jacket, the elbows worn, baggy pockets. Another precious, young-ish male thrown amongst growing, giggly girls.
“Hello, my name is Böhm. I know some of you have seen me around. I am your new music teacher. I hope we’ll become friends and learn a lot together. Good morning, class.”
“Good morning, Herr Böhm.”
“Sit down. Let’s start by everyone of you telling me what kind of music you like, whether you play an instrument, whether you sing … Why don’t we go through the alphabet. Altmeister, Hiltrud, would you start please?” Hiltrud doesn’t sing and doesn’t play anything. She avoids music lessons whenever she can. She’s good at volley ball.
I am next. “Becker, Annemarie.” I get up awkwardly and stand by the side of my bench. “I love classical music, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, I sing in the choir and play the piano.”
He grins at me. “Good combination, Annemarie. You see those notes on the blackboard. Sing them for me.” While I do that, he makes notes. When I finish he looks up and points at the concert grand we have in the music hall. “Now play something.” I walk over slowly, nervously, my hands moistening. I sit down and begin to play the first movement of the sonata I am practising for the concert.
He comes over and interrupts sharply. I look up at an angry face. “Do you study with someone?”
“Doesn’t your teacher teach? You have the gift and you are wasting it. You are slaughtering this most beautiful sonata instead of making it sing. Beethoven is turning in his grave. Get up!”
He sits down and begins to play. I can hear it immediately. Where I was only speed and technique, he recreates the music. He stops and looks up at me. “We’ll do one hour of piano after school three times a week.”
Herr Böhm opened a world for me. With him I did far more than read little black dots and learn them by heart. He helped me to understand harmonies, nuances, meanings, tone, composers’ intentions, he made me fearless when approaching an ‘Adagio or a ‘Lento’ – “Enjoy, don’t rush…” He even transformed my way of listening.
After that last torturous group concert, I left Herr Kirchner’s grey world, knowing also that I wasn’t cut out to perform in public as a solo pianist. My stage fright was overwhelming, my hands almost dripping wet and slipping on the keys, and not for a moment could I forget the audience and what they thought of me. I felt acute embarrassment throughout, especially performing for people I knew and had to face afterwards.
My fellow students began to ignore ‘Picasso’. I was no longer teased, but neither did I belong – except to my small group of close friends who knew me a little better. And then there was always Ruth!
When Fräulein Behrend decided that we should all take the afternoon off and go to the exhibition of the local artists, she had no idea that I formed part of that group, or that some of my paintings would be exhibited. That’s not something I flaunted, knowing full well the ‘punishment’ my peers would hand out. I was different enough, no need to rub it in, and it had not occurred to me that anyone in my school would know about the exhibition, let alone be interested enough to actually go and see it.
Not only did I fear ‘discovery’ but, worse, being held up to ridicule by my teacher and my class mates. Nothing I could do about it now. We all got our stuff together and started to walk towards the centre of town. Everyone was relaxed and happy to have escaped an afternoon of boredom. I was nervous and miserable.
Ruth put her arm into mine as we walked.
“Ignore them, Anne. Look at them, just look at our bovine friends – do you really care what they think?”
Ruth had just joined our class and we had become immediately natural friends and allies. As always, the two outsiders had found each other, and by then we knew each other’s secrets. She set me free with her presence and her disdain. I wished I could be like her.
Ruth’s mother, Hannah Weber, normally delivered Ruth at the school gates in a huge, shiny black Mercedes. Today, Hannah Weber would resemble Madonna as ‘Evita’: she was a slender, tall woman with almost white-blonde hair pulled back severely and gathered in a chignon at the nape of her neck, a style which didn’t try to flatter, but left a strong, striking face exposed, almost naked. Her eyebrows were drawn to form high arches, Marlene style, and her lips were always painted bright red. She had long nails, blood red and pointed, and her clothes, without ever appearing to cling, emphasised a figure that was round just where it was fashionable to be round, and when she swung out of the driver’s seat, her high-heeled shoes where at the end of long, nylon-clad legs.
Hannah always wore heavy gold jewellery: earrings, necklaces, rings, armbands… Ruth later told me that all her mother’s clothes where custom made by a dress maker – what I saw was an apparition from another planet.
Our classmates took jealously note of Hannah, but saw Ruth as just a dumpy girl with glasses, big tits and sturdy legs, hung with gold, dressed like a 40-year old woman in lace blouses and grown-up suits, who had obviously rich parents – at a time when in our world ‘rich’ only existed in juvenile imagination – and a mother who made no effort to hide their wealth. All of that was quite unforgivable.
Ruth called her mother ‘Hannah’, something I found very daring and rather exotic. Hannah would never dream of giving in to the expectations of the ‘great unwashed’, and the only reason why Hannah had deigned to send her daughter to a state school so obviously populated by ‘primitive working-class kids’ was to have her near for a few more years before sending her off to a finishing school in Switzerland and hopefully marrying her off to more wealth. Clearly, Hannah had no great academic expectations of Ruth.
So, there she was, ‘my’ Ruth, rich and spoiled (or so we thought), envied, ridiculed and ridiculing, and there was I, the know-it-all in clothes made by her mother, desperately trying to understand how I could bridge two extreme points: to be popular and part of the crowd and yet continue to enjoy my secret world of music, painting, poetry and reading without being shot at. I also felt the need to pick up on worldliness so that I’d be able to join in conversations, teases, jokes, without having to hide my naiveté behind a quick, big mouth, pretending precocious experiences.
Ruth and I drifted towards each other as though pushed by an invisible current, and soon we’d sit next to each other and spent all breaks together. Ruth was jealous of my other friendships, those that arose from living in the same neighbourhood and cycling in together or coming in on the same tram. She wanted me all to herself and, even though I resisted, I found myself more and more drawn into Ruth’s orbit.
Even though Mother was somewhat shocked when Hannah Weber turned up on our doorstep for the first time to ‘ask for my hand in friendship’ on behalf of her daughter, she couldn’t think of any reason why Ruth and I should not spend the occasional weekend together – and always in Ruth’s house of course because our flat was just too small. Deep down Mother was probably not a little impressed and flattered. Hannah Weber tended to have that effect on people.
Mother had, in fact, many reasons why I shouldn’t spend even one night away from home. The big threats were either that the other girls’ imagined depravity may rub off on her innocent daughter, or that boys would be lurking (while she wasn’t looking) and do what boys do (by then I had a good idea what that may be). Then, naturally, one could never trust the parents. In Mother’s world there were only ‘reputable’, ergo ‘acceptable’, people and others. Almost everyone I knew – my friends and their parents – belonged into the latter category. I soon began to suspect that my local friends weren’t quite acceptable because their fathers were mostly tradesmen. My classmates’ fathers (if they still had any), where plasterers, painters, bricklayers, motor mechanics… Even though Ditmar, my wonderful brother, was happily apprenticed to a shipyard engineering shop, but that could be overlooked as a temporary event because he studied in the evenings for his degree in engineering.
Slowly Mother tried to induct me into the world as she perceived it. Since Father’s family had been seriously rich, and Father’s mother seems to have been seriously dismissive of everyone who was not – or who had what in her eyes constituted ‘bad manners’ – Grossmama was Mother’s virtual handbook on how to be a ‘lady’, and how to bring up one. Romantic novels written at the turn of the century (Barbara Cartland style) read by Mother when she was very young, added to her conviction that the minimum I’d be expected to marry was some kind of ‘von’; diplomats and doctors would just about do, and that I’d have to be a virgin to achieve this enviable aim. To give Mother credit, money, even though important to her, was not among the top three of her list of desirable attributes.
Hannah Weber was certainly no ‘von’. To me, however, she was the epitome of everything I wanted to be one day, but I am sure that, behind her acquiescence, Mother had grave doubts as to Hannah Weber’s suitableness regarding influencing her daughter. Still, Ruth’s mother did not expect to be denied. When she wanted something she became an exciting and charming sales person who would have convinced the vicar that his church was in desperate need of a lick of mauve paint.
Our friendship blossomed and yet challenged me at every turn. Whereas I was used to be quiet and understating, Ruth was loud and colourful. Whereas I was easily embarrassed, having been influenced by a mother who actually worried desperately about what people may think, Ruth had been brought up to ignore the world around her and just be. Hannah’s motto was, ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. So, just don’t give it’.
Hannah Weber and husband Max owned a textile factory specialising in silk. Nobody was ever quite sure how the Weber Factory had managed to survive the War, and most only whispered what Hannah, with her husband away in the War, had done to flourish in the years before and since 1945. The fact that the factory escaped severe bomb damage must have helped considerably, and from what I could detect when I finally met Ruth’s father, Max was the solid anchor in stormy seas, while Hannah was the sprite: she was creative, ruthless and forever re-inventing herself and her surroundings.
But when my friendship with Ruth began, I was not curious about the how, just overawed by the what: a huge flat covering the two top floors over what before the War had been a retail shop for Weber silks; there must have been over 500 square meters of living area, bedrooms, music room, library, bathrooms, kitchen … never before had I seen such generous dimensions belonging to only one family. In what had been declared the ‘music room’, Hannah had a shiny black Blüthner grand and, quite unexpectedly, turned out to be a gifted amateur pianist, preferring above all Chopin’s works for piano, especially his ‘Etudes’ and ‘Preludes’ which she played with skill and passion.
On average, Ruth and I spent about one weekend per month together, and in the early days we remained mostly alone. Max and Hannah tended to relax while hunting in their own small game reserve somewhere in the Eifel. Looking back, I think that Hannah encouraged our friendship at first only because she thought I would have a calming influence on Ruth, and because she felt guilty about leaving her daughter alone at home: Ruth had seen her mother shoot a deer and never wanted to visit the ‘killing grounds’ again – ‘ever!’. The walls of one of the Weber’s reception rooms where covered in antlers of all sizes – Max’ and Hannah’s hunting trophies – and Ruth regularly upset her father by calling them ‘your stupid horns’.
During the first few of our lonely weekends we just enjoyed the luxury of being without supervision. It felt good to me. If we didn’t talk (I discovered that Ruth was very bright indeed, and later I’d survive maths only by copying her homework), or listened to music, we went to the local cinema (Ruth always had money), stuffed ourselves with ice cream at the local ice-cream parlour, giggled when boys sat next to us, tried on Hannah’s make-up, clothes and high-heeled shoes and made silly, anonymous phone calls.
“Hello, are you Herr Breitner, Breitner Bakery?”
“Do you have fresh bread?”
“Yes, of course!”
“Then be very careful that it doesn’t go stale.”
“Hello, Herr Doktor Trautmann, we are so sorry to bother you. This is the local telephone company. I’m afraid it’s a bit of an emergency – we have a fire on the line. Would you do us a favour and blow into your phone?”
What turned us on was the fact that nine out of ten people – all chosen for their academic titles – and therefore presumably intelligent – blew into their receiver. These silly games were Ruth’s idea and in the beginning Ruth made all the calls. The first time she handed me the receiver I was too tongue-tied to get out even one little word and Ruth hang up in disgust.
When I was big enough to use it, we’d never had a phone. Father didn’t want one in the house, since he had suffered emergency call-outs at all hours of day or night for too many years. So I wasn’t just handicapped by shyness, but by being overawed by the instrument. This would soon change, Ruth saw to it. However, I’d never quite lose a moment’s reluctance before calling anyone.
Ruth enjoyed her role of the experienced mentor. With the help of a big, modern record player, Ruth taught me the slow waltz, foxtrot, tango, rumba… She would either lead or move by my side, showing me the steps.
“One-and-two-and-three… close your feet. Move your hips. You’re as stiff as a stick!”
She opened the big heavy fridge door. “Look at me!” In her white dress, the skirt spreading out over petticoats, a red belt tightly cinched at the waist, her blond hair piled up high on her head in the latest fashion, her eyes far away, she is no longer awkward Ruth, the fifth-former that seems ten years older than the rest, but a priestess of beauty and unimaginable pleasures. She moves to the beat and makes even me believe that the fridge door is an able dance partner and potential lover.
I am beginning to enjoy this. After my initial embarrassment and consequent clumsiness, my body happily accepts the exhilarating abandon to the magic of dance and my mind no longer breaks the spell by worrying about ‘looking stupid’…
We sit down, exhausted. I look around me and envy Ruth her luxuries.
“It’s been different for you… you always had everything.”
“Yeah, money, this place, stuff it… What you don’t know is how lonely I’ve been until I had you as a friend. Max was off to fight a war. Hannah always worked, I sometimes saw her on weekends. My brother couldn’t be bothered, and he was in school anyway. Would you believe all that I, the rich kid, wanted was a little dog to keep me company? There was no way Hannah would allow it. She said, “A worm-ridden, filthy dog won’t come into my house slobbering all over the place!” So I made my own. I remember when I walked up and down the factory yard with a matchbox on a string, pretending … up and down … up and down … looking back from time to time to see whether my dog was still with me. Pretty sick, wouldn’t you say? And then here, in this hole. Only company I ever had were the maids who didn’t give a fig.”
“Did you stay here all the time during the War?”
“Most of the time. When the air-raid siren went off we went to the shelter next door. Mostly with the maid, whoever we had at the time. Hannah was always at the factory. One time we thought we’d all be killed. There was this enormous blast, I thought I’d be deaf forever. We all ducked, I ducked more than most. When the dust had settled, I looked around to see whether we were all ok. There was this face just in front of me, a neighbour, and she was suddenly bald. I looked at her, looked again, and couldn’t stop laughing hysterically. Would you believe that the stone door from the chimney down in the shelter had been blown out, grazed her scalp – didn’t touch the skin – shaved off her hair and landed just behind me without touching me at all?”
She starts giggling and rolls on the floor. “God, I can still see her face, the shock. She had only felt the passing of this thing, didn’t know yet that it had shaved the top of her head! Oooh… sooo … funny!”
I can’t help it, I too have to laugh. The image is hilarious.
“After that Hannah took me away for a while. I have no idea who ran the factory during that time.”
“Not far, just to a place where Max was born. Some smallville in Lower Saxony. And not for long.”
“Did your brother come?”
“No… I don’t remember why not. And we didn’t stay long. One day we packed up and left. I didn’t want to go back because I had made some friends. Besides, going back was scary. By that time I was sure I’d be killed soon.”
“I can’t imagine Hannah in a small town. She probably wanted to get back anyway.”
“Yeah, I guess so. Hannah’s screwball. Recently we went back to that dump. Hannah was homesick, God only knows why or what for. Well, never mind. We went. On the way we passed a barn with a cow in it. The wide door was open. Hannah stopped the car and decided we’d milk it …”
Ruth is rolling on the floor again. She can’t go on because she is holding her belly, tears streaming down her cheeks. The more she laughs the more hysterical she becomes, and it’s catching, even though I still have no idea what this is about. Ruth slowly calms down a bit.
“… Hannah … Hannah never even … ever … milked a cow…”
We are both off again. After a while she continues.
“… but we both know what an udder looks like, and this udder was very strange. It only had one big teat…”
“And?” I ask still not quite sure why I am laughing.
“… t’was no cow, my friend. T’was no udder, t’was no teat. And we were exceedingly lucky when we decided against milking it.”
Once a month we go swimming instead of doing boring old exercises in the boring old gym. I don’t know how the other kids climb up that rope. When it’s my turn I experience a severe pull of gravity, affecting especially my behind. Gymnastics? No way! Same problem. Running? Why should I run faster than everyone else from point A to point B when I don’t want to be in B in the first place? The long jump? Dear God, if you had wanted me to long jump, you would have given me the legs of a flea and a less heavy bottom!
Swimming is what I am made for. Diving, divine. But on dreary cold and clammy winter days I don’t really feel like getting undressed and getting even colder and wetter. Fräulein Löhns, our physical education teacher, does the roll call and makes crosses into this book she has whenever one of the girls first says, “present”, and then, “can’t”. No questions are asked; the girls who ‘can’t’ get to sit up in the observer lounge where it’s warm and moist, and the noise from the pool reverberates like ping-pong balls from wall to wall to ceiling and back.
One day I risked it. “Annemarie Becker?” “Present. Can’t”. She looked up from her book, smiled and made a cross. Amazing. It worked. I had no idea what it was all about but from then on used the magic ‘can’t’ whenever I wanted to. Fräulein Löhns probably felt sorry for me. So many young girls have irregular periods in the first years.
“Mother….! I am very ill! Come, please… I need a doctor!”
Blood is trickling down my inner thighs, stains my knickers and collects on the bathroom floor. I can only stand there and stare in horror.
Mother appears, frowning, impatient, fed up. “Why are you screaming the house down?”
“Look, Mum, look, I am dying…”
Mother looks down, then looks at me. Her face actually becomes softer. “Don’t worry, Anne. You’re not dying, you are a woman now. That’s what women get. Once a month you’ll menstruate. That’s what the blood is.”
“But where does it come from?”
“From deep inside of you. Now be quiet. I thought this may happen soon so I bought all the necessary things. Here is the belt. You see the two straps with hooks on either end? One goes to the front and one hangs at the back and you fasten the pad in the hooks. Here is a box with pads. If you need thicker ones, we get them. And here is a pair of plastic pants that close tight on your legs, so nothing can leak out.”
Mother disappears to continue with whatever she was doing, leaving me to clean myself up and clumsily use all the paraphernalia she gave me. I feel dirty, my belly hurts, I may not be dying after all, but I certainly want to.
From today’s point of view it seems almost unbelievable that I could be 14 years old without having talked about sex, menstruation or pregnancy – either with my mother, or, what seems even less credible, with my friends. Yes, we hinted, and many smutty jokes we didn’t understand did the rounds. We pretended to know, we made grown-up noises, ‘sophisticated’ gestures; we created a whole world of innuendo without understanding what we hinted at. We winked and nudged and poked each other with our elbows, and used words without ‘getting’ the double meanings.
I looked up ‘menstruation’ and shyly started to talk about it with the others, most of whom had ‘already been there, done that …’ but had never talked about it openly. All these subjects were taboo in the lower and middle-class families of that generation in Germany, and men certainly would never be consulted on a subject as unspeakable as that.
Mother resembled a spider in a web more than ever, and even Father seemed to change. This was the time of our first, and very innocent, parties. Girls only. All parents seemed to be clear on that point. So we dipped into our Cokes or fruit juices, wished we weren’t just a crowd of giggly females, tried to impress each other with sexual encounters that had never taken place and quietly wondered what it would be like to be kissed. We did discuss the finer points of a kiss ‘with tongue’ and weren’t quite sure whether we were disgusted by the whole idea or whether it was something worth striving for.
In my endeavours to get away from Mother as much as I could, I had joined the Christian Youth Club in the neighbouring part of town, ran by their vicar and some of his sidekicks from the ‘Evangelical Sisters’. Even Father was in favour of me going there – to join upright young people and have ‘good, clean fun’. Anything called ‘Christian’ had to be ok, and its intrinsic goodness had to rub off somehow.
That was the only reason why Hans Wüstenroth was allowed to take me to the cinema once a week. Hans, 21 years old to my almost 15, had taken an interest in me from the time I joined the club. Feeling as gauche and unattractive as I did, I didn’t pay him much attention at first because his attention couldn’t possibly be meant for me. All the girls were in love with him. He was one of the helpers – tall, very good looking and always cheerful. His sparkling blue eyes contrasted perfectly with his dark curly hair and his smile – making a dimple in his left cheek and showing small, even, very white teeth – made him even more attractive. And Hans smiled a lot.
After a few weeks of always hovering somewhere near me, Hans asked whether he could take me home. He lived in my part of town and we’d take the tram together and he’d then walk me to my street. Of course I was flattered and of course I found this ‘desirable older man’ attractive but didn’t quite believe in his intense interest, still mistaking it for kindness. For me Hans was quite unattainable, the stuff 14-year olds’ dreams are made of.
The first times he accompanied me home, I asked him not to take me further than the corner of my street. I knew that, in the evenings, Mother would always be restless until I was back, either waiting by the window, looking out at the street from behind the living room curtains, or doing stuff in the kitchen, close to the front door. I wasn’t sure whether Mother had binoculars somewhere, but one night, not many weeks after the first time Hans took me to the street corner, she asked me with a face of dread and doom, “Who is this man who takes his leave like a thief in the night at the corner of the street? What does he want? Why doesn’t he show his face?” When I explained, she insisted I’d let him take me to the door next time. She wanted to meet him. I was devastated. This was the end of something that hadn’t even begun. Mother would frighten him off. Just the thought…
Hans took it in his stride. After the following club night he took me all the way to the front door. We rang the bell (I had never been given a house key) and Mother opened the door. She was in her best dress, silk stockings, best shoes, her hair neatly combed back and gathered in a ‘bun’ in the neck.
She remains inside, lit from behind by the rather dead hall light and her face made visible by the ghostly sheen of the street light.
“Hello Mother, this is Hans Wüstenroth”. Hans doesn’t know Mother’s expressions, so he can ignore her ‘she-who-has-to-be-obeyed’ face. Perhaps I am the only one who’s frightened of her. Hans steps up to Mother, makes a perfect bow and shakes her hand, looks into her eyes. He is so grown up! I almost feel left out.
“Guten Abend, Frau Becker. Wüstenroth. Perhaps you know my parents who live just next door to the Post Office. Here is your daughter, safe and sound.”
He smiles at Mother. And there is the miracle, Mother smiles at Hans. “Herr Wüstenroth, thank you.”
“Frau Becker, I am so glad we met. I wanted to ask your permission to take Anne to the cinema from time to time on Saturdays. Would that be acceptable?”
“Herr Wüstenroth, if you have my daughter home by 8.30 every time, I have no objections. You pick her up here and deliver her safely back here.”
“Frau Becker, I give you my word.”
For a short while, Hans and I became ‘an item’. The other girls were jealous and wanted to know more. In the usual style I hinted, nudged and winked, intimating all the wicked things Hans and I got up to. We now also met on the way to the club and arrived together.
One evening we met as usual, but Hans suggested we’d go for a walk instead of to the club. I was a bit nervous and not only about the fact that Hans and I would be alone for a couple of hours, but also because I was afraid of what Mother would do if she found out.
We walk towards the coke plants saying little. I am tense, excited and fearful. The night is dark, the light from the street lamps doesn’t make much difference. The bleak street that leads to the coke plants and past them is devoid of normal houses, and no-one is out walking tonight. Everything is stark, dark and still wet from earlier rain, with a few misshapen trees here or there struggling to bring some relief to an urban industrial landscape of unremitting and polluted functionality.
We walk slowly. Our steps echo on the cobblestones and against the walls that hide the various factories. We have reached the huge slag heaps which are looming ominously against a faintly lighter sky. A rattling noise makes me shiver and look up. Just like a black paper cut out, clearly visible against the sky, something resembling a small freight train moves along the top of the mountainous shapes, coming nearer, coming to a stop and, all of a sudden, the night explodes into a red-hot inferno when the small freight containers pulled by a mini engine tip their content onto the slag heap: the spent coal, still at improbable temperatures, coming in from the nearby smelting plants. Hans and I stand quite still, our hands touch, and a current of electricity as red-hot as the colour of the night shoots through me. We look into each other’s eyes, and slowly Hans encircles my back with one arm, takes the back of my head into his hand, his faces moves towards mine and, while his lips press against mine, his tongue forces its way through my tightly clenched teeth and into my mouth.
After a long, long time, Hans finally let me go. I had no idea what to do, the wild energy transmitted when our hands touched was dead, the kiss was too wet, too long and by then I was thoroughly disappointed, even though secretly delighted that I had taken that step. My first kiss!
On our way back we held hands. When we said good night, Hans suggested we’d go to the cinema next week. Of course I agreed. He didn’t kiss me outside my front door for which I was grateful. I got home just a little too early and Mother had not had time yet to prepare herself to receive her wayward daughter by opening the door and disapproving visibly. Feeling terribly guilty I rang the bell. I was sure she would see what had happened the moment she looked at me. She always seemed to know everything. But, instead, she just said, “You are early. What happened?” even though her voice full of suspicion. “Nothing, Mother. We just finished earlier than usual and I came home.” “Did Hans bring you back?” “Yes.” For once she let things be, but couldn’t resist to have the last word with a loaded “Mmh!”
When I got myself ready for bed, I looked into the bathroom mirror and found I had not changed at all. Exactly the same face as always was looking back at me. I had expected to suddenly grow up, to ripen, to ‘become a woman’ – whatever that meant – with my first kiss. Having stuffed my brain with romantic novels from Frau Krämer’s treasure chest when I was too little to understand what I was reading, I felt I was probably not cut out for love since I didn’t ‘swoon’, ‘my bosom’ didn’t ‘heave’, my skin hadn’t changed colour, and even Mother didn’t seem too fussed. So what was it all about? I hadn’t even liked the experience much.
From then on Hans and I often skipped the club and went instead to the cinema in a part of town where we weren’t known. Inevitably we’d sit in the last row, and there our interests divided: I desperately wanted to see the film, still enchanted by the big screen and still happy to ‘feel the width and never minding the quality’, while Hans wanted to smooch. I didn’t like kissing and he didn’t want to do anything else. And since we had a longer way to get back from that cinema than from our own and had to take the tram, we’d leave every time around 15 minutes before the film ended. In all those weeks I didn’t see much of the films and never the conclusion of whatever plot was going. I wasn’t sure how to finish my relationship with Hans, especially since I gloried in the envy of the other girls, but the decision was taken for me when Hans had a scooter accident (Mother had insisted he’d never take me for rides). I visited him in hospital only once, and a little later I heard that he had a new girlfriend.
Mother was not pleased.
Book 2 concludes next Sunday (followed by the final instalments: Book 3 in three parts). Thank you, Rose. The rest of the ‘adventures of Annie’ can be read in THE TELLING.
If you’d like your novel to be considered, please see https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/novel-nights-in.
** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!
or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **
You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internet, view my Books (including my debut novel, which is being serialised on Novel Nights In!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers. If you like this blog, you can help me keep it running by donating and choose an optional free eBook.
For writers / readers willing to give feedback and / or writers wanting feedback, take a look at this blog’s Feedback page.
As I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t unfortunately review books but I have a list of those who do. I welcome critique for the four new writing groups listed below and / or flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays. For other opportunities see (see Opportunities on this blog).
The full details of the new online writing groups, and their associated Facebook groups, are:
Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Novel Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group
Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
We look forward to reading your comments.