Willie's War Ch. 07bySnurge©
The following morning Willie was still confused in his new surroundings, yet the change in him had become evident: his gestures possessed a greater conviction, which suggested he was beginning to feel more comfortable. Little things like the sure way he picked up a cup of tea, the certainty with which he told everyone he didn't take sugar or milk with it, were very significant. He was considered a peculiarity and a spectacular and charming rogue, but everyone he chanced to meet seemed to love his unconventionality. His presence seemed to light up a room when he entered, even if his unguarded observations did sometimes make people want to roll up their eyes.
Of course his conversation was in part still somewhat stilted and broken and he spoke hesitantly sometimes, as if feeling his way through the English language, yet his vocabulary and his powers of understanding were noticeably acute, and he giggled happily, girlishly proud of those achievements.
Sir Mortimer and Jeremy de Vere were due to go to London the following day, and although things were so sublime and pleasant at Brascombe Manor that one could have forgotten about the horrors of war, Willie Froehlich couldn't forget. In the evening, believing he had established himself well enough by then, he decided to make his first approach to Sir Mortimer.
He needed to be careful. That horrible Mrs Whippet who ran the household crept about, watching, listening, intent on knowing things. She was one of those working class women who, when entrusted with some authority, mistrusted the working classes. "They are not so bad if you know how to deal with them," she had been heard to say in the same condescending tone she used when talking of pet animals.
He was sure she had searched his room, wanting to discredit him and see him ejected from the house, but he was happily safe despite such inspections. He owned a small shaving kit, but that wouldn't have been alarming in a house that served as a home for people like Debbie Findlay. He carried with him no wireless transmitter, no codebook or any incriminating documents. There was nothing more evil in his possession than a couple of oft read Dutch classics; a book by Louis Couperus and Multatuli's 'Max Havelaar'. He had nothing with which to carry out his allotted task but his own personal resources.
The door to the Gun Room was open and Sir Mortimer was seated behind his desk consulting some paperwork when Willie found him, and he fiddled with his hair and applied a touch of lipstick before he entered.
"Excuse me, Sir Mortimer. I've come across some English words that puzzle me. Do you have a bilingual dictionary I could refer to?"
Mortimer looked up briefly. His normally well-fed, relaxed and rosy-cheeked face looked, not frightened or worried, but extremely concerned. "Not Dutch-English." he said, "I have a German-English thing I picked up some time ago. It's on my book-shelf."
"That will do fine. German I understand well enough." Willie went over to the book shelf and peeped over his shoulder. "You are busy this evening."
"Yes," he said, "I was just going over the latest shipping figures. A substantial part of our war effort relies on the cargoes we receive from America, and the losses due to U-boat action in mid-Atlantic and the Western Approaches are very grave." He shook his head sadly. "We've lost sixteen hundred merchant ships since the war began, and a good many brave men have lost their lives trying to bring them here. It's unsustainable. I shall have to raise the matter at Prime Minister's Question's next week."
Willie took the book he'd requested and went across to the desk, weighing his words carefully, not wanting to give the impression of knowing too much or seeking too much immediately. "I would like to say something to you. Would you mind?"
The man raised his eyebrows. "If it's urgent, you should. You look like you're going to burst, so talk up. I'll listen, but I've things to do at the same time, if you don't object."
It was awkward to speak to him while he was bent over his desk opening and shutting drawers. He kept looking at the clock too, which was hardly encouragement. Willie drew a deep breath. "Uncle Oscar mentioned that you once admired Adolph Hitler. Is that true?"
Mortimer stopped fiddling around and there was a strained silence before he replied. "I attended the Berlin Olympics in '36. In those days a great many of us admired him. His remedies for things were sometimes rather harsh, but his country was on its back when he took control and he pulled it up by its boot-straps and made it function properly again."
"I understand that is probably true," Willie said, "And when Britain declared war on him you became unhappy and allied yourself with a 'peace-movement'."
The man shuffled uncomfortably. "Steady on, Willie. I don't know how you got that idea, but one doesn't admit to those kinds of things these days. Even in a democracy there are limits to what will be tolerated during a war. The people that elected me didn't do so because I'm a defeatist."
"You are not a defeatist, you're a pacifist."
"Same thing to most people these days." he offered a slightly glum expression. "Since Churchill took over the reins from Chamberlain everything as been sewn up. The Opposition Parties are in coalition with the government, and the running of the war is the province of a hand-picked War Cabinet. People like me don't have a voice anyone will listen to anymore."
"You should speak to the poor seamen who risk their lives on the oceans, and you should ask the common people, do they want peace or do they enjoy being bombed in their homes every night?"
Mortimer smiled grimly. "You have a simplistic way of looking at things, Willie. Anyway, there is no 'peace movement' as such any longer; there is no cohesion amongst those that think as I do. We all hate the war but we exist as individuals."
Willie turned and gazed at a spectacularly morbid Piranesi print of dungeons hanging on the wall. "I hate war too, but unlike you I know no influential people. When you go to London you should speak with your friends and arrange to form a group. It's only because you all live separate lives that you feel so vulnerable. There will be others who remain silent for their fear of being ostracised. Handled with skill such a group could compel Churchill to alter his attitudes and seek conciliation with Hitler."
He clutched the book in his hand tightly. "This war creates such misery for everyone. Isn't it worth at least trying to bring an end to it?"
Sir Mortimer's initial emotion on hearing this was one of anger, and his first inclination was to rebuff what had been said out of hand. Just who did this flighty little madam from the continent think she was, telling him, a distinguished and respected Member of the House of Commons what he should and shouldn't be doing? How dare she presume to have a better understanding of world events and English politics than he had? She was a madhat idealistic undergraduate who like so many her age thought they knew how to set the world to rights.
She had recently fled her home and was destitute. Out of pity and the need to uphold credibility with an old friend he had given her lodgings for a few days, but her outlandish remonstration was a damned impolite way of thanking him for his generosity.
He pulled himself back on the verge of making a sharp reply when he suddenly realised that she had just summed up the very sentiments he'd felt himself a number of times over the past two years but had never had the moral courage to attempt implementing. Perhaps it was not such a bad thing after all to have someone around to prick his conscience and give him a little push now and again.
He slanted a look at her, shifting in his seat to take it all in. The girl's blue eyes, beneath thick, dark lashes, were alert.
"I suppose you have a point." he replied with only slight enthusiasm. He lowered his eyes, joined his hands and placed his fingertips on his lips. His face took on an expression of harshness and sadness has he thought things over. "I suppose one should at least try to do something. Sometimes a man must do what he believes is right, even when so many others may disagree with him. I know a dozen people I could contact who think the same as I do. Some of them will know others that may be interested."
Having set the wheels of thought moving in the man's mind Willie was content to leave it at that for the time being. But Sir Mortimer was as yet too faint-hearted to be trusted to continue without encouragement, and he knew he would soon need to return.
Willie enjoyed being a guest at Brascombe Manor. The old house felt warm and lived in, and the next day when he strolled in the grounds with Deborah he made it clear he wished to see everything. He loved the birds foraging in the trees and the rascally rabbits scurrying in the paddocks, and he adored the rural view of the fields beyond with their cattle and sheep. Most of all he loved the genuine enthusiasm of Deborah to share it all with him. He listened attentively to her descriptions of local wildlife and shrieked with giggles when they chased each other and hid in the bushes like schoolchildren.
Left with Debbie as his only companion he became alive to her humour, and when she made him laugh his whole being seemed to sing with joy. To the American it seemed the house guest was coming alive before her gaze, and the ability to make someone laugh she never underrated.
In the centre of a sunken garden that was long past its best show they came upon an incomplete brick structure.
"Mortimer's air raid shelter." explained Debbie, "He decided to have one built last year, but then gave up on the idea."
Willie expressed surprise that the area didn't attract any of Reichsmarschall Goering's Luftwaffe bombers.
"We sometimes hear squadrons of them going over flying high in the night sky, but they don't bother us here." Debbie told him. She explained that suitable targets were widely scattered in rural Essex, and German aircraft knew they could inflict greater damage if they visited the big industrial towns further inland.
"Best to blackout your bedroom windows at night though," she advised, "When those sons-of-bitches get lost they drop their bombs on any point of light they see rather than carry them home. If Mortimer would loan me a duck-gun, the bastards would all end up dead-meat. What do you say, Willie?"
Willie sorrowfully rocked his head from side to side. "Oh... I knew a German pilot once, and he was a good man."
Debbie treated that comment with more than a little cynicism. "Don't go spreading those kinds of stories around, missy. Folk in these parts think the only good German is a dead one."
Willie frowned at the flippancy. He tried not to think of Eduard Dietz whenever possible, but when reminded of him his jaw tensed and involuntary tears filled his eyes. "The man I knew was handsome, he was gentle, and he loved me and never tried to take advantage of my naiveté. He was the best thing that ever happened in my life. But there was tragedy."
He gave a little nod. "Tragedy has in catastrophic. He was killed early in the war."
Suddenly aware of her incaution Debbie winced at the unintended cruelty she'd inflicted. "That's a pretty good list, sweetie. I'll remember it. Have you a photograph of this fella'?"
Willy shook his head. "I had one once, but it was taken from me."
"That's a shame. We could have framed it and given it a place of honour somewhere."
Willie sniffed unhappily, and all Debbie could do was curse her own insensibility and stroke the slender, vulnerable young neck that leaned against her.
In the afternoon it rained and they retreated to the drawing room where Deborah gave another lesson in dancing the jitterbug. She spent the entire afternoon teaching the basic steps, and found the pupil to be an avid learner.
Willie had cheered up by then and he delighted in the rapid moving pace and seemed to fall in naturally with the jiving steps. It seemed like dream. That presence, that invigorating music in all its moods was not to be resisted. The room had a surreal quality as they swung around, heightened by several ornate gilt-framed mirrors on the walls that reflected the two of them back and forth, increasing their numbers into infinity and making them a mere element in a rolling, surging multitude.
After a while there came an unrehearsed pause. Being a leggy five foot ten and having the advantage in height Debbie abruptly stopped and stared down into the liquid blue eyes of her partner, unable to break a connection that suddenly crackled like a high-tension wire between them. The new arrivals lips, slightly swollen and as plush as pillows, were trembling. His skin was the purest cream. She couldn't help wondering what it would be like to kiss him.
An uncontrollable urge washed over her and she felt her body drawn towards his. Willie winced as a gentle stroke was administered to his face. "You're beautiful." she purred into his ear.
"So are you." he responded.
Debbie laughed. The cones of her breasts were conspicuously evident through her tight dress, and she was clearly aware of the fact. "You're being kind, but if I invited you to touch me, I don't think you would."
Willie could only shake his head. "You are Sir Mortimer's partner, are you not?"
Debbie cocked one of her exquisite eyebrows for greater effect and shimmied her curvy hips suggestively from side to side. "Sure, Mortimer's a honeybunch an' I love the guy to bits. But a little harmless smooch on the side with someone like you won't hurt that relationship."
The American noticed that even though he wore no bra Willie's chest had a certain pert rise to it that could push out the front of a blouse and give men the impression of an intriguing bosom. It certainly intrigued her. There was no denying he was a looker - trim figure, high breasts, and a face with an unconscious come-hither smile.
"I was truly proper, y'know, once upon a time." she explained. "I was as proper as can be. Then the fella' I lived with went an' died on me, poor soul, and I took up with Mortimer. He wants me to be completely decent of course, but oh, la-la-la, that's not for me."
"No," Willie said, "Not for you."
"It's better with the war. God forgive me for saying it, but we have to live tonight for tomorrow we die."
She moved very fast; she was beside him almost before she had finished speaking. Willie hadn't bargained for it and she was far too near for his peace of mind, and that peace was wholly shattered when her hand moved of its own volition, coming to rest on the she-boys silken neck as her face moved forward and kissed him quite fiercely on the mouth with warm lipsticked lips.
She brushed her mouth gently across his and found the touch intensely sensual. When Willie's lips parted slightly to protest, she took advantage and covered his mouth to slowly sample the moist warmth of his tongue. To her surprise, he allowed him to continue the tender assault and she deepened the kiss, the wave of heat in her body in danger of becoming a raging tide.
She reacted to the intimate pressure of his body against hers, and his attributes of sex began to swell wantonly as a totally familiar desire to grind his hips against him pulsed with increasing intensity.
Gradually, through her hazy passion, she realised that Willie wasn't responding. His hands rested limply at his sides and his body stood unmoving before her, a pillar of reticence.
The taller figure dragged itself back and stepped away. "You know, you should moan a little when you get tongue in your mouth, and you could try mauling my tits a little bit too. Mortimer never does enough of that."
Willie still didn't respond and Debbie looked at him with a look that wasn't unkind but failed to hide a trace of disappointment. "Shit! I get it. You can only get hot for guys in trousers. Just my goddamn luck."
"I'm sorry if I displease you, but I can't change. I am what I am."
Deborah held up a hand of peace. "Sure, I understand that and I accept it. I ain't into trying to change the world or anyone in it." After a moment she added with a touch of an appeal, "Not even a little bit of hand-jobbing?"
Willie said nothing; he bobbed his head slowly, and then converted the nod into a negative shake that was absolute.
For a moment they looked at each other, then as abruptly as it had disappeared, the smile came back to Deborah's face. In resignation she turned to the gramophone. "Come on. We'll put on another record. Let's dance."
Mortimer came home late that evening, and after they had all had supper they went into the drawing room. He and Debbie sat on the sofa, side by side, where he eased off his shoes and leaned back looking weary and worn.
"Old Winston gave one of his speeches to the House today. Made this damned war sound almost winnable when everyone with the least bit of commonsense knows it isn't. German U-boats are hunting in packs now and our Atlantic convoys are suffering terribly, and Uncle Joe is taking a pasting in Russia. If the soviets chuck in the towel we'll be on our own again and Hitler will be able to give more thought to coming across the Channel."
He looked so downcast that Debbie couldn't resist reaching towards him and playfully poked his paunch with the tip of a finger. Instantly his face brightened. Like a crab poked with a stick he became animated and beamed with the same kind of delight a child would know at being given an ice cream.
Willie went out of the room for a minute and when he returned he almost burst in upon a tableau so intimate it had the potential to be embarrassing. Through the half-open door he could see Deborah and Mortimer were in a clinch, and he could hear everything they said.
A muscle worked in the man's cheek, his teeth snapped together and he ground out. "I love you." His arms slipped around his companion and he began threading her feminine shape through his hands.
Debbie wriggled in his embrace and murmured softly, "Mortimer, there are people about," but he was deaf to her appeal.
"There is a limit to which a man can stand being touched by your hands, Deborah Findlay." he murmured. "You goad me beyond it, so I respond. Like this."
His arms supported her figure and at the same time impelled her towards him. His mouth chased hers as it playfully dodged and evaded, fastening on her lips at last, prising them open and drinking its fill from the very depths of her.
His hand invaded her blouse from below, pushing upwards and skimming across her uncovered breasts, stroking one and then the other, taking captive with audacious fingertips the pouting nipples. Debbie's legs almost gave way under the tumult of sensations he aroused, desire ran amok all over her. She knew that if she didn't call off the chase she would be unable to resist responding to the almost irresistible onslaught .
Deborah wasn't willing to call off any chase. Lust was not being imposed on her, Willie knew that, and the woman in Debbie knew it. By then she was enjoying the feel of Mortimer's manful arousal pressing against the throbbing sensitivity of her inner thigh. Clearly she did love him, even if that love was sometimes subverted by a lifetime's habit of permissiveness.
Willie felt no thrill as he watched. There was none of the ripe excitement he had known when watching Loti and Otto Hahn perform together at Ravenskopt. Instead he just felt utter loneliness. Some people would have been appalled by an overweight middle-aged man giving such libidinous attention to a person of such youthful beauty, but Willie felt only envy. Not since his time with Eduard had he known the same kind of intense devotion Mortimer was displaying, and he wanted to know it again. He needed that sort of thing. He yearned for the same kind of caring, and he wanted to be loved in the way Debbie was being loved.