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`Write me a love stor`

by Chestersmummy 

Posted: 19 March 2017
Word Count: 4067
Summary: Hi - this is Chapters 4&5 of my wartime romance novel. Frank has deserted Flora to go to war and Flora has been left to run the smallholding on her own. However, she finds that however hard she works it is just too much for her and is forced to fall back on Frank's suggestion that a POW is delegated to help her.


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CHAPTER 4
 
I stood, frozen with horror, a pile of spilt grain at my feet.   There were bodies everywhere.   Pathetic clumps of sodden feathers, they no longer looked like chickens.   And it was all my fault; I’d noticed the gale had loosened the runs fence posts and had meant to do something about it but I’d been so tired.   Now it was too late.    A hungry fox, now competing with humans for his dinner, had seized his chance and was now probably holed up somewhere nearby, peacefully digesting his meal.
I squeezed my eyes shut and stood quivering.   It wasn’t just the loss of the eggs and the money they’d brought; I’d grown fond of my birds.   It brightened my morning to see them run towards me, lurching from side to side on their trousered legs, looking for all the world like wind-up toys.  Very early on I’d realised each had its own personality and I’d named them all.  I ground my teeth.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.  Whatever made me think I could manage on my own?’
I found the cockerel hiding inside the coop.   Somehow, he’d managed to flap out of reach and escape the carnage.   Charlie clung to his perch and stared down at me from out of dull eyes.   He’d lost his tail feathers and was no longer his strutting self.  I looked at the pathetic creature drooping in front of me.   Beaten and dejected, he looked as I felt.
As I stuffed the carcasses into a sack, I thought of the telephone number Frank had scrawled on a piece of paper just before he left.   It was still there, tucked behind the clock.   I’d ‘phone the camp from the village. 
* * *
All the way down the hill I rehearsed what to say.  Frank had said he’d fixed it   but that had been some time ago and might have been forgotten by now.  As I lifted the receiver, my stomach was churning. A voice answered and I pressed Button A, hearing the hollow sound of coins dropping into the box.
‘Hello.’
The voice was faint but, in the event, things went smoother than I’d imagined.
‘Just hold on a bit missus.   What did you say your name was again?’   There was a dull clunk as the phone was put down and in the background I heard the muted rumble of voices, like the faint herald of a summer storm.  After what seemed like an age, the cheery voice on the other end of the line was back again.
 ‘That’s all right then missus.   Now, ‘ow many do you want?’
  For a mad moment I thought I’d got the wrong number; it was like ordering up bales of hay.   Then, I almost slammed down the phone as a nightmare vision of a group of cold eyed men standing in my yard flashed before my eyes.  I gripped the black Bakelite tight.
‘Just one.’  .
‘Righto.   Might be a few days, mind’.   If the man on the other end of the line had noticed the tremor in my voice, he made no comment.
I left the telephone box and walked over to where I’d left Barley.   My legs were shaking and at that moment I would have sold my soul to see Frank’s familiar figure striding towards me.
* * *
 Wasn’t it just typical?   Life never misses an opportunity to catch you out.   Exasperated, I wiped my nose with the back of my hand, realising too late, that it was filthy.  Now I probably had black streaks across my face as well as straw in my hair.
All week I’d been on tenterhooks, alert for the slightest sound of an army truck; every morning waking up with the thought that this could be the day.   Except, of course, for this morning, when I’d felt so miserable that everything else was wiped from my mind.  I had a pounding headache and when I swallowed fire shot down my throat.   The harsh morning light had increased the thumping in my head and wincing, I’d screwed my eyes shut again.   Every fibre of my being yearned to slip back under the covers and sleep for at least the next eight hours, but with an iron will I’d forced myself out of bed.   Full of self pity, I stumbled downstairs thinking that no doubt the Spanish Inquisition had had its tricky moments but it couldn’t have been much worse than a dose of summer ‘flu.
Sniffing miserably, I went about my usual morning chores.    Luckily, by now they were second nature and I trudged around like a robot, doing what I had to do, my arms and legs working with a mechanical efficiency.
When I returned from the milk run, I looked at the long-suffering pig wallowing in his sty.   I’d recently evolved a new system.   To avoid overlooking any job, I’d made a tick list, tacking it up on the kitchen door so I’d be sure to see it whenever I went out.   Today, it was the pig’s turn to be mucked out.
So, with the porker grunting and snuffling around me, I was standing ankle deep in manure, forking soiled hay out of the sty when, to my horror, I heard the grinding of gears as a heavy vehicle laboured up the hill.
Before I had chance to move, an olive green truck swung through the gateposts, its heavy tyres skidding over the yard as it slid to a stop.   A moment later, a squat plug of a man dressed in a hairy khaki uniform jumped down from the cab and stood looking around, his head snapping backwards and forwards.   A silent group of men seated in the back watched incuriously.  
Seconds passed in slow motion then, without taking my eyes off the scene, I took an uncertain step forwards and almost tripped over a metal bucket lying in wait.   At the sudden clang, heads whipped round and I sensed, rather than saw, a dozen pair of eyes settle on me.   My face flooded with heat as I remembered the smudge on my nose and my wild hair.   I must look like a scarecrow.  My hands trembled as I let myself out of the sty.     
As soon as he saw me, the sergeant’s face cleared and he did a quick right turn trotting towards me at the double, a clipboard tucked under his arm.
‘Ma’am’!
He braked and came to a halt; his spine erect and his chin tucked in.  As his bulky figure stood bristling in front of me, I noticed that what filled out his uniform was not fat but muscle; there was not a spare ounce of flesh on his body.   Somehow that made me feel worse and I stood drooping in front of him feeling like a rag doll, my headache intensifying as the bark of his parade ground voice vied with the gong being beaten inside my skull.
 ‘Arrive at seven…..leave at seven.   Monday to Saturday……’   His words burst around me like machine gun fire.   They were clear enough but they didn’t sink in; their sense was muffled by the layers of cotton wool stuffing the inside of my head.   Wearily I closed my eyes and as I did the ground beneath my feet started to ripple.   Slowly I began swaying to compensate.
‘Sign here Ma’am.   Ma’am?’
A hand grasped my arm.
‘Are you all right Ma’am?   You don’t look quite the ticket.’    Mercifully, he’d stopped shouting and his voice, although roughened by years of bawling at squaddies, was softer.
I shook my head and the sudden movement sent nausea coursing through me.   I retched helplessly.
Dimly, I saw the sergeant’s head whip round and he bellowed over his shoulder.
‘Fritz!’
 Seconds later, the pitchfork was taken out of my hand.
‘Just lean on me.’
With unexpected gentleness, I was guided across the yard and into the kitchen where I collapsed into a chair.  Leaning back into the soft cushions, I tried to ignore the room circling around me.  Slowly, I closed my eyes, dimly aware that somebody was taking off my shoes and lifting my feet onto a stool.
When I opened my eyes, everything was hazy.  I blinked and dim images swam into focus; I recognised the clock, my wood burning stove and the high stone sink.  As if a tap had been turned, everything came flooding back.  I remembered the lorry, the sergeant and someone called Fritz.   I sat up with a jerk almost knocking over a cup of tea that had been placed close by.   A wrinkled skin covered its surface and it was quite cold.   Startled, I looked at the clock.   I had been asleep for over two hours.   A pulse began to beat rapidly in my neck.   Where was everyone and what had been going on while I’d been asleep?  
I jumped to my feet and immediately clutched the back of the seat as my legs buckled.   I stood hunched over for a few seconds then lurched to the door and flung it open.   Sunlight flooded in and, narrowing my eyes against the glare, I squinted around the farmyard.   Nothing seemed out of place.   The usual farm buildings slumbered in the sunshine that was rapidly drying the mud in the yard to a brown crust.   I could see the dark shape of Barley’s dun coloured head poking out of the stable door.   Her jaws were moving rhythmically and strands of hay spooled from her mouth.   Someone had fed her.   That had been the next job on my list, after the….    I suddenly remembered the pig and my head jerked towards his sty.   Grunting gently, he was rooting about in a fresh pile of golden straw.    Round and pink and clean, he looked contented.
The beating of my heart steadied and my grip on the door relaxed.  There was a sharp sound of stone against metal and I craned my neck to listen.   It was coming from around the back of the house and I started to step outside before remembering I’d no shoes on.   Retreating into the shadowy coolness of my hall, I found my shoes, slipped them on and walked through the house towards the back door.        
As I passed the kitchen window I stopped dead.
The cockerel had been corralled inside its little wooden house and the old  fence posts had been uprooted and lay neatly stacked on the ground.  A man was digging a deep trench around the hencoop.  He seemed very young, hardly more than a boy.   Pausing for breath, he wiped an arm across his brow and took off his shirt.   His bare torso was so white, it looked luminous and I could count his ribs, his stomach was concave and his trousers were held up by jutting hipbones.   I felt a flash of irritation: he looked weedy.  They might as well have sent a girl.    Then, he started to dig.   His movements were sure and unhurried and with fluid grace he bent and lifted the shovel with a rhythmic ease, piling the excess soil in a neat line at the side of the trench as he worked.
I watched him for a few minutes more.   Perhaps I should make him a cup of tea.   Or should it be coffee?   I wasn’t sure what Germans drank.  The French liked coffee, I knew that.   Frank and I had rarely touched the stuff but sometimes in the evenings, we had a cup of Camp, made with boiled milk heavily laced with sugar.  I opened the cupboard but the bottle was empty apart from a sticky brown residue coating the bottom.  
The man looked up as I approached and at first I thought the colour of his eyes was a reflection from the sky.   Later, I realised they were always that shade.  As I drew nearer I realised he was older than I’d first thought, maybe twenty-five instead of sixteen.   Straightening, he put down the spade.
‘Ach. You are looking so much better now’
He saw the cup, smiled and stretched out his hand.
‘Danke.’
The sweetness of his smile, took me completely by surprise.   I’d prepared myself for surliness, arrogance or a cringing slyness but not that.
‘My pleasure.’  
I handed him the tea, appalled by my starchiness.   I forced myself to continue, aware I was sounding more and more like a vicar’s wife.
‘Thank you for all you’ve done Fritz. You’ve obviously worked very hard.’
            ‘Please.’   He held up a hand    It was a very slim hand with long fingers, it could have belonged to a concert pianist.   I noticed that ugly red welts were already beginning to blister his skin.
‘Please’, he continued.   ‘Not Fritz.   My name is Georg.’   Suddenly he put the cup down and straightened.   Snapping his heels together, he saluted.
‘Georg Reiner Weindhoven.’
He dropped his arm, relaxed and laughed out loud.
‘The sergeant calls us all Fritz.  Every one of us.  It’s his little joke.   I think it saves him from remembering all our nasty foreign names.’   His eyes twinkled into mine.
I drew back and there was a long silence.   He hadn’t taken long to show his true colours.  How dare he mock the sergeant; that was pure arrogance, typical of his race.  He blinked uncertainly and his smile faded.   Suddenly, he looked vulnerable.  
‘I’m sorry.   I haf offended you?’
‘Drink your tea, before it gets cold.   Do you have anything to eat?’
Even to my ears, my voice sounded as if it could stiffen sheets.
Turning to where his jacket was draped over a post, he rummaged in a pocket and drew out a brown paper package that crackled as he unwrapped it.
‘Bread and…’he peered inside the sandwich…’marge, I think you call it.’
‘Is that all?’
He shrugged.   ‘Unfortunately, I’m not staying at the Ritz.’
Despite myself, I was shocked.   He was the enemy but he wasn’t a slave.
‘I hope you like eggs’.
As I poached the eggs and buttered the toast, I wondered about him.   He didn’t look as if he was used to manual work but when he’d finished mucking out the sty, he’d fed Betsy and had obviously realised the chicken coop needed mending.   Most men in the same situation would have lazed around smoking, waiting to be given orders.
But as I carried out the loaded tray he was, indeed, sprawled on the ground, his thin fingers busy with a roll-up.
 
CHAPTER 5
That night I couldn’t sleep and lay staring into the dark.   I’d made a terrible mistake. I was sure of it and the more I thought about it the more certain I became.   Of my own free will and driven by panic, I’d invited an enemy alien into my home.   Goodness knows what would happen now.   Cursing my stupidity, my hands gripped the sheets, their nails almost ripping holes through the worn cotton.   Eventually, in the early hours of the morning, I drifted into a thin doze only to be awakened almost immediately by the first shrill chirp of a single bird that swiftly multiplied as others joined the chorus.  I crawled out of bed feeling half dead and all through the day, whatever I did, wherever I went, a dark cloud hovered over me and the same thought circled inside my brain like a record with a stuck needle.  I’d made the most disastrous mistake.
Each morning, almost on the dot of seven, the truck turned up and the German vaulted down into the yard.    His loose prison clothes flapping around him, he’d head towards the barn door where I’d pinned a list of his jobs for the day.   Then, with a nod in my direction and the ghost of a smile, he’d turn away.   After our first meeting I’d done my best to avoid him but was always conscious of his presence.  So far, he hadn’t put a foot wrong but I was sure it was just a matter of time.    I dreaded market day when I’d be forced to leave him alone on the farm.  I was certain it was just what he was waiting for and when I came back the farm would be a smoking ruin.  When the day eventually came, I had to force myself to leave and as the cart rolled down the hill, I kept peeking over my shoulder as my home dwindled into the distance until eventually, I rounded a bend and it was lost to sight. 
All through the long day that followed part of me was back at the farm.   I found it difficult to concentrate, several times giving people the wrong change; every mistake flustering me and making me even more miserable. 
            At long last the crowd began to thin and I was  thinking about packing up when I saw Sarah walking towards me.
‘What’s the matter love? You look worried’
            Frowning, she leaned on the trestle table, squinting at me out of narrowed eyes.    So far as I was aware, no one outside the camp knew about the German.   I certainly hadn’t told anyone but in closed communities word got around so I looked closely at her.   Her face showed nothing but concern.
I stared past her, towards the rapidly emptying market.  The square shrank in size, as though I was looking at it down the wrong end of a telescope and I closed my eyes and rubbed my forehead.   I’d been so determined to cope on my own, it was difficult to admit I’d caved in.   But she was bound to find out sooner or later and would be dreadfully hurt if she found out second hand.  I swallowed my pride.
 ‘I gave in, Sarah.  I’ve got a prisoner working for me.’
There was a brief silence and then Sarah took hold of my hands and squeezed them.
‘Good for you.   I wondered how long it would take for you to come round.   You couldn’t possibly manage all on your own, especially in the winter.  We all realised that.   But what’s the problem?  Is he no good?’
I sighed.
‘I really don’t know.  He’s hard working and seems to know what he’s doing.  There’ve been no problems so far.   But, he’s a German, Sarah.   All day I watch him like a hawk.  And if I lose track of him for a few minutes I worry that he’s escaped. Even worse, I’m scared that he’s plotting something.   What if he sets fire to the farm, just to get his own back?    He’s on my mind all the time and it’s just horrible.  I hate it’.
Sarah was quiet for a moment and then she spoke, her voice decisive.
‘You need to relax, you’re all strung up.  Tell you what, I’ll ask my Tom to come and give him the once over.   He’ll sense if he’s a wrong ‘un.  He’s a great judge of character.   Over the years, we’ve had all sorts working for us:  gypsies, tramps, the odd townie and we’ve never had any trouble.  Tom is good at sussing out rotten apples’.
Immediately I felt a wave of relief:  someone else was taking over and I liked and trusted Sarah’s husband.   Then and there I decided I’d go along with whatever he said.
‘Thanks, Sarah.’
‘ You’re welcome and what’s more, I’ll ask him to come over this very afternoon.   If you’re worried, I’m worried.   You’re all alone and I want to be sure you’re safe.   Now, I must go.  Got to be home before my marauding horde gets back from school, otherwise there'll be nothing left for the Nazis.’ 
Winking, she gave me a cheery wave
.* * *
I stood staring out of the window.   Tom had been gone for a long time.   I turned away and paced across the room wondering what I’d do if he agreed the man wasn’t to be trusted.   My teeth gnawed my underlip as I thought about it.   Despite all my misgivings I had to admit the farm had been running much more smoothly since the German had been around.   I sank down into a chair.  Weariness washed over me and my shoulders slumped.  I just couldn’t face the burden of coping on my own again.
  ‘Right me girl, time to get the kettle on.’
The chair squealed as I shot to my feet.   Tom’s huge frame blocked out the light as he stood in the doorway, ducking his head under the lintel, he entered the kitchen.
‘I don’t believe it Tom, how can someone as big as you creep up on me?  I’ve been watching out for you for ages.’
He laughed.
‘Practice, Flora.  It’s all those years spent avoiding bailiffs and bank managers.  Now, how about that tea?’
Five minutes later, his hands dwarfing the cup, he looked at me, his face serious.
‘Flora, I’m sorry about all the trouble you’ve had.   I wish I could’ve been more help, but you know how it is.’  He shrugged.
‘Don’t worry, I understand.  It’s good of you to spare the time to come over today.   But please don’t keep me in suspense.  What’s the verdict?’
Putting down his cup he leaned back in his chair.
‘I don’t quite know how to put this.   I’ve done my best to critical but at the same time fair, so you might find what I say a bit odd.  The fact that I rather took to him, I mean.  It seems strange, even to me.   After all he is a German.  But then again, putting prejudice aside and looking at things objectively, he’s polite, he looks you straight in the eye and he can certainly work.   For two pins, I wouldn’t mind employing someone like him myself.’
Sitting upright again, he put his hands on the table.
‘I’ll be honest, when Sarah asked me to give this chap the ‘once over’, I didn’t know how to go about it.   I could’ve just gone with my instinct but if I’d been wrong…..’ He stopped, letting the silence speak for itself.
‘Then I had a think, several of the guards at the Camp are drinking chums of mine.   I know the Sergeant well.   Oakes’s a sound bloke.   So I got on the blower and put it to him and I can tell you one thing, he’s certainly not worried.  Y’know, the
blokes at the Camp aren’t fools.   They know your circumstances and if they sent
you a shifty character and anything happened there’d be the devil to pay.  And as for him escaping, where would he go?  No civvie clothes, no money, no food.   Okay, he speaks good English but there’s no mistaking that accent.’  He shook his head.  
            He leaned towards me, his eyes earnest.   ‘What I suggest is just give him a chance, eh?   Not all Germans are monsters and if you think about it, it can’t be easy for him either’.  
I looked at him, beginning to realise I’d over-reacted.   Like any ignorant clot, I’d forgotten to use my brain and let prejudice cloud my judgement.
‘I expect you think I’m stupid.’
‘Of course you’re not.   You’re in a very difficult situation.  We’re all going through something we’ve never experienced before and we’ve all got a lot to learn. And you were quite right; it pays to be cautious.’
Just as he was leaving I heard the sound of the army truck.   In a few minutes they’d both be gone and I’d be alone again.  I shivered and put my arms round myself.   I thought I’d got used to it but it seems I’d been wrong.
* * *
When I took Georg out his tea the next day, I put a slice of plum cake in the saucer.   His eyes widened.
‘For me?’ 
I was rewarded by a replica of the smile I’d noticed the first time we’d met and smiled, in return.
In the days that followed I still kept a close eye on Georg but for a different reason.   I noticed the number of times that he crossed the yard to spend a few minutes with Barley, stroking her neck and muttering to her in a low voice.   As for Barley, she seemed to love the attention, pricking up her ears and whickering softly whenever she caught sight of him.
I tapped my mouth with my finger, as I watched.   Georg was thoroughly at ease with her and, if he knew about ponies, he might be able to handle a bigger animal.   






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Comments by other Members



salli13 at 07:08 on 21 March 2017  Report this post
I will have a look over the next few days.
Salli x

Chestersmummy at 10:18 on 21 March 2017  Report this post
Thanks Salli.

salli13 at 10:07 on 17 April 2017  Report this post
Hi Chestersmummy,
Can't believe it's taken me this long to read your chapters.  I really don't know where the time goes to.  Any way I think this is shaping up to be a really nice story.  There is a bit of inconsistency with your spacing and indentation but i am sure you know this and will address it during the editing process.  But you are creating a really believable story.  I am curious about Georg's story and whether there will be a romance of some sort between the two of them.  Couldn't find anything major but the only section that didn't read right to me was this:-

I stood staring out of the window.   Tom had been gone for a long time.   I turned away and paced across the room wondering what I’d do if he agreed the man wasn’t to be trusted. 

Are we too presume that Tom had already arrived and was now making his assemennt?  Maybe need to say something like `Tom had called in as Sarah promised, he'd been out there with Georg a long time.' Just need s a few words to set this scene better IMO.   But that's all i could find apart from th extra spacing in bewtwen some words.  i look forward to reading more.
Salli x



Chestersmummy at 17:47 on 17 April 2017  Report this post
Thanks so much Sally.  I will look at that section and see if I can make it clearer.  Best wishes and I hope you had a good Easter.

Janet X


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