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 eighth, and penultimate, instalment of the first novel in this series and features the second section of Book 3 (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 (10,276 words), here is an introduction to Rose then the seventh 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, Part 2 and Part 3. Book 3: 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.
Book III: Spitting against the Wind (part 2)
“You slut!” my mother spits from where she stands, under the lamppost right by the front door of Udo’s building. My heart misses a beat, my stomach tightens into the familiar knot, and my first thought is ‘Thank God that Udo didn’t come down with me’.
Her face is drawn, angry, almost defeated. “You slut!” she repeats when she pulls me by my arm and then pushes me in the direction of the tram stop. “What did he pay you? That dirty old fornicator. Did you know he’s married? He has a reputation in town. Go on, walk!” She suddenly lets go of me and almost runs ahead, not even turning back. I follow her. What else can I do? Right now I feel neither very joyous, clever nor particularly grown up or even surprised. In my letter to Ruth I had seen it coming, hadn’t I? Mother’s rigid back speaks of fury, bitterness, hurt, and something I dare not recognise so that I won’t give in to loving her: sadness and vulnerability.
I deliberately remember all those times Mother has killed my happiness, cut my wings, sat in the kitchen waiting, bitter, resentful, putting down my friends, insinuating that I was guilty of the most terrible crimes, calling me names, physically pulling me out of harmless parties, sniffing me to detect what … cigarettes, alcohol and perhaps sex, too. No, I am not going to love her, especially after what she did today.
When we get home, Father is waiting in his study. Before joining him I go to my room, leave my coat and bag on a chair, then I walk into the study and sit down. Strange that now I don’t feel angry or even afraid but rather a little sad and forlorn. It’s no longer the same as it would have been only yesterday. Today I am no longer his little girl, today I am a confident young women and beginning to suspect who I may be one day.
Mother stands in the doorway, having put on her suffering face. “She’s all yours, Father. I picked her up from a man’s apartment. I don’t know what to do any longer. Your daughter is a slut.”
Father looks at his wife, then at me, then into a space only he can see. I take the initiative: “Father, we can’t go on like this. I am on my way to being 19 years old. Well, whatever. I am a woman, no longer your little girl. I love you, but you have had your lives. I have to grow into mine. I really don’t know how you two have managed, neither do I want to know. But tell your wife to stay out of my hair from now on. Just because I have to live at home doesn’t give her – or you – the right to treat me like a five-year old. Perhaps you mean well, but you’re screwing up. What I do may not be what you would do, but you aren’t me.
“Father, the best thing for everyone is that I move out and on. That I get as far away as possible from both of you. That will give you peace and allows me a breathing space. I need your permission, I know that legally I am not yet ‘grown up’. But you can see that that’s the best solution, can’t you?” I run out of breath and all of a sudden feel empty.
I can’t read my father’s expression. Could he be holding back tears? Mother has come into the study and is sitting on the sofa, her elbows on the table, face in her hands. My father clears his throat and says with an effort: “Perhaps this would be the best solution. Your mother has suffered enough. I’ll think about it.” I feel dismissed and go to my room, closing the door behind me. My legs won’t quite carry me. I kick of my new shoes and sit down. Will they let me go? And if they do, what will I do?
Udo and I no longer saw each other. We had some clandestine meetings, mostly in restaurants, bars or coffee shops, which left us feeling miserable and frustrated. I had made a discovery and wanted to repeat the experience. Still, very soon, to my surprise, I began to enjoy the fact that our relationship no longer included much time spent together (even Udo understood that he couldn’t go back to besieging me at the Austerlitz studios) and we both knew that surreptitious, hush-hush lovemaking was an impossibility. His attentions, though, now intense and full of unspoken need, were exactly what made my heart beat faster. To be wanted, longed for, without having to give, seemed enough right now and, cowardly, I used Mother as the perfect excuse.
Ruthie, my dearest friend, you haven’t written. Whine, whine. I suppose you, too, are busy investigating life. In your last letter you said you didn’t want to write too explicitly because you thought my mother would read your letters as she always read everything else, even my diary… don’t worry. She doesn’t open letters any more before she gives them to me. We had a big row about that! And when I’ve read your letters I burn them on the terrace. Once – with her sense of smell she should have been born a Doberman Pincher – she must have detected an atom of smoke, opened the kitchen window, leaned out and called over to me where I was doing my ‘Ruthie-ritual’ on the veranda and wanted to know what I was up to. So I told her I was burning my love letters on a regular basis. She was not amused.
Strangest thing happened: I had an orgasm the other day. Don’t laugh. I’ve never known what it would be like. You know perfectly well that sex for me was just a little boring and I didn’t know why. Sometimes it was quite enjoyable, but never quite, you know… When you said how your Rolf was making you feel, I was envious. For me it was the only way to getting hugged and cuddled, just the price I had to pay. I suppose it was about getting tenderness, touching, and feeling good about myself. But the other day, with Udo out of all people, I suddenly understood the world. Well, what makes people want to make love. I can now imagine that it can get sort of addictive, can’t it? The weird thing is that it only happened when he couldn’t be ‘good Udo’ any longer, but became passionate, intense, ‘can’t wait bad Udo’. Do you think that my Wolf experience has made me into a pervert?
But that’s just part of the story. My old spoilsport mother had followed us and waited for me when I came down from his flat. She called him names, called me ‘a slut’, and when we got home there was Father, all quiet and upset. She handed me over, indirectly accusing him that ‘his slutty daughter’ was all his fault and he’d better deal with the situation. You know my father, he doesn’t deal with anything, really (well, he ‘dealt’ with Führing that day, but that’s the only time I have seen him in action). The situation at home is becoming unbearable. Christ, why aren’t I 21 yet? Then I can do what I want anyway, but I can’t wait any longer. I want out now. I told them both that I think it’s time I left. Better for them – they don’t have to get so upset about their misfit daughter any more – and better for me because I can start to find out who I really am when I don’t have to be so revolting (ha!).
I’ll be keeping you abreast (one for me, and one for you – please smile) of the situation. Write! Your orgasmic friend, Anne.
The situation at home had already deteriorated before I joined the paper. As the result of the last exhibition with the local artist group, the town had offered me a scholarship to attend the renowned school for graphic design in a neighbouring city. When it had dawned on me that they would only pay for tuition, books and materials, I had refused the grant knowing that I would be in Mother’s clutches for the years of study. Every time I’d asked her for money, she had given it to me with conditions. And every time I felt I’d sold my soul. Mother never understood my refusal and I never explained. But she never quite forgave me for ‘throwing my future onto the dung heap’. So I didn’t hold out much hope for a solution to something that seemed to be only my problem.