Chapter 6 cont.
The girls were all bright and took to their training with enthusiasm. Ilse and I formed a special bond and she did very well with her English. She told me later that she was sorry for the role that she played when I was forced to make love to her. I apologized if I had been too forceful with her.
“It was the best fuck I’d had in weeks,” she said and laughed. I was still angry with Schellenberg, but a part of me felt proud that I had pulled it off and with such aplomb. Hopefully there would be no more tests. But I was wrong.
I taught the girls in a separate building occupied by the SS away from Kitty’s. I would meet with the girls in small groups around eleven in the morning.
It was a cold November morning when Schellenberg decided to pay us a visit. After sitting and listening to the class on English verbs and adverbs, Schellenberg sent the girls back to Kitty’s.
“We have a special guest this evening, girls. Major-General Dietrich, commander of the Führer’s personal bodyguards is coming this evening. He has requested all twenty of you be present.” After the girls had left the room, Schellenberg stood and walked over to the desk where I was seated. He had taken a special interest in me since the incident with Ilse. He would sometimes stand very close to me when he spoke, never letting his eyes leave mine. Walther had gotten remarried to a very plain woman named, Irene, in October and he never mentioned her.
“Dietrich has asked a few of us to join him this evening for his little party. I thought I might bring you as my guest.”
“That’s very kind of you, sir.” I started to sweat.
“You’ve been doing a good job with the girls, Huber.”
“Thank you, sir.”
He stood staring at me. “You’re a very handsome man, Huber. Almost pretty like a girl.” I said nothing. “Do you have a girlfriend?”
“I wonder why not?”
“I suppose I haven’t found someone special yet. And my work keeps me very busy.”
“I suppose spending all your time with whores, it would be hard to find someone suitable.”
“Yes, sir.” He turned and walked to the door. As he opened it he turned back to me. “Dinner is at eight at Madame Kitty’s, Huber.”
“Thank you, sir.” I stood and reached my arm out. “Heil, Hitler.”
“Heil, Hitler,” he returned and walked out of the room.
“I’ve already had my breakfast with Lettie.” Miles was drying himself off as he walked into the bedroom from the bathroom. I was buttoning my shirt as I stared at his body.
“Then I shall have to eat alone,” I said, reaching for a pullover.
“I learned a lot from the old girl. This place is full of dirty little secrets.” He turned and walked back into the bathroom to dress.
“Well, you shall have to fill me in on all the local gossip. I’ll see you downstairs. I would like to walk the grounds when I finish breakfast. Will you join me?”
“I’d be delighted.”
Lettie prepared a hearty breakfast of eggs, chips, fried ham and her wonderful bread. I was just finishing my tea when Miles walked in from the foyer.
“I think my room was where Lord Reid slept,” he said. “I gathered that they had not slept in the same room in years. He was a cripple. Did you know?”
“I know nothing, Miles. This is all new territory for me too.”
“First World War casualty. Went around in a wheelchair. I think that’s why they had no children. His Lordship was unable to perform.”
“You certainly did learn a lot at breakfast.”
“From what Lettie tells me, there may have been something going on between her Ladyship and the gamekeeper they all says I look like.”
“Let’s get a move on. The day’s lovely and it’s not getting’ any earlier.” Miles walked to the kitchen door. “Shall we start with the kitchen.” I picked up my plate, napkin and silverware and followed him into the kitchen.
“Oh, ya didn’t need to do that, sir. I can manage it.” Lettie said as she wiped flour dust from her hands on her apron and took the plate from me. She placed them in a large copper sink. The kitchen was large with a great wooden table in the center of the room. Lettie was pounding a loaf of bread on the table when we walked in. After placing the plate in the sink she went back to kneading the bread. “How was yer breakfast, Mr. Reid?”
“Wonderful, Lettie, thank you very much.”
“Oh, yer quite welcome. Mr. Sheffington, uh, Miles was telling me all about his time in France during the war, Mr. Reid. You’ll have to tell us all about yer service too. Here in the midlands we don’t travel much and tales of foreign countries is a treat to be sure.”
“Yes, I’d love to sometime, Lettie.” Miles was smiling at me.
“Yes, I still have to hear yer stories too, Stevie.” He walked to the kitchen door and opened it. “But first we have to do a bit of exploring, Lettie.” I followed him to the door.
“Enjoy this lovely day, gentlemen.”
“Thank you, Lettie.”
“Lunch’ll be ready around noon.”
“Thank you. I haven’t seen Mrs. Sellers this morning, Lettie. Do you know where she is?”
“She went into town for groceries and errands, Mr. Reid.”
“Thank you.” Miles was already down the gravel path and I rushed to catch up with him as we walked past a kitchen garden.
“She’s a sweet thing,” I said.
“A dear heart.” Miles said. “Seen a lot here I imagine. Been here since before his Lordship returned from the war. Over twenty years. She died of cancer.”
I fell silent as we turned into the garden maze.
“Needs a bit a pruning.” Miles was looking at the rose bushes. “My grandmother loved roses. Had a lovely garden. Taught me how to prune.”
I was imagining my mother ill in the bed upstairs. We ventured down the lawn to the gate. After a bit of coercing, Miles was able to open the lock. One of the hinges was in need of replacing. We walked through the gate into a forest of fir, pine and oaks. Everywhere signs of spring were displayed as crocuses and wildflowers emerged from the loamy forest soil. A somewhat overgrown path led us through the forest. We crossed a brook with a small bridge made of tree trunks, covered with moss.
“Shall we follow the stream and see where it leads?” Miles bounded off the path like an adolescent puppy and I raced after him. After a while struggling through the thicket, we came to a large pond and watched a turtle sitting on a log jump into the water as we approached. “This’ll be a grand place for a swim come summer,” Miles said. I was breathing heavily and catching my breath as we walked along the edge of the pond and came upon a small boat with flat ends and a large pole. It seemed to be in fair condition. “Hop in, Stevie, I’ll take thee for a punt around the lake.”
“Do you think it’s safe?”
“We’ll find out soon enough.”
I climbed in; sitting at the front of the boat and Miles pushed us off the shore and jumped in. He grabbed the pole and soon had us several yards from the shore. He stood at the end of the boat, pushing the boat forward with the pole. We had reached the center of the pond. “I’m afraid it’s too deep for the pole,” he said and laid the pole down in the boat and sat down opposite me.
“What do we do now?” I asked.
“Just float for a while and see if we end up nearer the shore I reckon.” Miles put his hands behind his head and lay back at the end of the boat soaking in the sunlight. I sat nervously watching the shore and the movement of the boat. Overhead a hawk soared and cried out.
“So, tell me what it was like being in the Germany Army.”
I froze and looked at him. His eyes were closed and he put his boots up on the edge of the punt.
“Well, I never saw any combat. I was stuck behind a desk most of the war.”
We drifted for a time with only the sound of the birds and the soft lapping of the water on the sides of the boat. Miles sat up and looked directly at me. His eyes narrowed. “Should I hate thee, Stevie?”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Should I hate thee for all the lives you might have killed at yer desk?”
“Of course not. I didn’t have that kind of power.”
He sat staring at me for a moment and then picked up the pole and stood at the back of the punt. We had drifted closer to the shore and he was able to push off the bottom of the pond again.
“Miles, I told you I’m ashamed for certain things I did. But no one died as a result..” We had reached the shore and Miles pulled the punt onto the bank.
“How do you know, Stephen? Can ye be certain?” I climbed to the end of the punt and jumped onto the beach.
“It was war, Miles. You do what you’re told.”
“Dreadful business isn’t it.” He looked at me as a smile slowly came to his face.
“How many Germans did you kill, Miles? Should I hate you?”
His smile left his face and then a sadness crept into his eyes.
“Like I said, dreadful business.” He turned and we hiked back to the path following the stream.
We walked in silence for awhile and soon came upon a clearing with a small hut. A chair was on the porch and the door was slightly ajar. Miles pushed it open with some effort and we entered. The room looked like it had not been inhabited for years. Spider webs and mouse droppings were everywhere. A small bed with a dusty quilt stood in one corner and there was a table with old dirty plates and broken china under the single window. A chair was on its back on the floor. Miles picked it up and set it right.
“I wonder who lived here?” I asked.
“Mighta been the gamekeeper they keep goin’ on about.”
“There’s no kitchen or bathroom.”
“Maybe he just used it during the day and lived somewheres else. Maybe this is where her Ladyship and him fucked?”
I found myself somewhat offended by his crassness. “She was my mother, Miles.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean no disrespect. I mean, ya never even knew her, right?”
“But I feel like I’m getting to know her and I would appreciate..” Miles reached out and put his hand behind my neck.
“Please fergive me, Stevie.” He drew me to him and kissed me, putting his arms around me. “We could fix this little place up and make it ours.” I put my head on his shoulder and felt a rush of emotions as we held each other.
So much had happened in the past few days and all of a sudden it seemed to catch up with me. I started to cry and Miles held me closer.
“Oh, Stevie, I’m truly sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s not that, Miles. I.. feel a bit overwhelmed by everything.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot to take in I suppose.”
“Never thought I’d end up in little hut in the Midlands holding a sweet man in my arms.” He took my face in his hands again and kissed me tenderly on the mouth and then on my eyes. His lips came back to my mouth and I tasted my salty tears.
Outside we heard the sound of leaves and twigs snapping. We both started and separated. Miles looked at me and then walked to the door quietly trying not to make the floor boards make a sound. He looked through the door and then motioned me over with his hand. I crossed quietly and saw a doe with two fawns feeding on the new grass in front of the hut. The mother deer looked up, saw us and bolted into the forest with her fawns following quickly behind. Miles put his arm around my shoulder.
“It certainly is a lovely place you got here, Stevie.