Remembrance Day is all about remembering those that died in wars, particularly the Great War (aka First World War, 1914-1918). It is easy to forget to include the collateral damage done to civilians, and children, and their ravaged societies changed beyond recognition.
Alex Stephens transports us back to the troubled times following 1918, where two unlikely people find each other. They discover that the solution to their problems is within their own hearts. But they have to be brave. And strong. And determined. And willing to take risks.
Because neither they, nor indeed their changed world, are ready for them to fall in love.
Welcome. And enjoy!
The Unlikeliest Lovers
by Alex Stephens
Their eyes met across the tureen of steaming mashed potato. The soft focus made it artificially romantic in the cold, dingy mess hall of the windswept airfield, somewhere in rural England. But as her emerald greens locked with his baby blues, they both instantly felt that things would never quite be the same again.
“Danke,” he whispered shyly, as she slopped some mash onto his plate. Neither of them noticed she had half-missed, and most of the creamy starch had splattered back into the tureen.
“You’re welcome,” she blushed, telling herself to breathe again. Her eyes followed the short but stocky man in the unfamiliar uniform reluctantly moving on.
“Who is he?” she murmured to the middle-aged woman serving peas next to her.
“A damned Bosche,” spat the woman in venomous reply. “You don’t want anything to do with him, the swine. He’s the reason I lost my husband and my son. We should have exterminated every last one of them after the War.”
Elizabeth paid no heed to the vitriol. She thought it ignorant and unfair to condemn any individual for the actions of others, and thought even less of judging someone by their country of birth. If we are going to behave that way, she reasoned, we English should be condemned for our many atrocities of the past, too.
Her fair-mindedness was surprising, for she had every reason to agree with her bigoted colleague. Her father had been blinded by chlorine gas early in the Great War, and spent the rest of his life trying to cough out his scarred lungs. Despite his awful injuries, he had remained philosophical. He knew he had given just as badly as he had received.
He taught his daughter not to judge a book by its cover. To always dig deeper for the Why? that lay underneath. Don’t blame the Hun for his maiming. Blame the aristocracy for the silly squabbles that led to the senseless slaughter in the first place. She was a clever girl. She listened and learned.
Her mother had the arduous task of caring for the crippled man. She found it too hard to forgive, and much easier to blame the Hun instead.
Elizabeth was barely sixteen when the Spanish Flu ended both of her parents’ sufferings.
Alone in the world, she finished her schooling with the meagre inheritance, but further education was far beyond her means. Nevertheless, she employed her mind to seek work, rather than employing her body to seek a husband. She read avidly, fascinated by philosophy and psychology. She wanted to know what made people tick.
The seeds planted by her father took root in her fertile mind, and prejudice had no place in her enlightened world of 1930. But that charming Teuton was very welcome indeed.
Elizabeth watched him ambling awkwardly away. His crew-cut hair revealed a muscular neck that sat above wide, powerfully built shoulders. His long back had the most amazing ‘V’ shape that tapered into… Oh, No!
A fleeting moment of disappointment was swept aside by a deep pang of sympathetic distress for the man with a body of two halves.
Her analytical mind delved deeper for the Why? hidden beneath the tiny waist and spindly bow legs that were at least four inches too short. Childhood rickets, she suspected. And a particularly nasty case at that…
He was far from perfect, and yet she was… interested. What had started with the eyes, extended to every inch of his novel physique. She kept him under close scrutiny as the man limped away. But she had already convinced herself that he was merely an interesting specimen for intellectual study, blindly oblivious to her heart softly yet steadily beating out smit-ten, smit-ten, smit-ten, like a distant war drum.
She sighed contentedly, and preened her immaculate hair absent-mindedly. Her thoughts were rudely interrupted by an impatient “Come ON, woman, I’m hungry,” from the disgruntled airman next in the queue.
* * * * *
“Gott in Himmel,” mumbled a dazed Otto. The stunning beauty of her smiling face had knocked him out of the ballpark. He sat where he could discretely admire the extraordinarily gorgeous woman serving the mash.
Her high cheekbones and dazzling eyes were framed by long auburn curls, neatly pulled back away from her round, kind face. But it was her mouth that captivated his attention, for she was always smiling. An enchanting smile like hers was an unfamiliar luxury in his world.
His miserable childhood was history now. But his feeble legs plagued him eternally, leaving him nothing to smile about. And now the novelty of his first trip to England was eroded in just one morning by the hostile animosity from the other pilots on the course – because he was German.
But then this angel had smiled warmly at him. Not just with her mouth, but with her whole face and those electric eyes. She made him feel welcome. And… special!
She wore some of that red devil’s paint on her luscious lips, and he felt…. tempted. Slim, tall, and elegant, even the somewhat grimy kitchen apron made her look like a million Reichsmark model, enhancing her modest bust and rounded hips to perfection.
He sighed heavily, and shook his head. There was no ring on her finger, but… with her looks, it was obvious she could have any man she wanted. He knew he had no chance. He might as well give up already.
He had never been lucky in love. Women shunned him the moment they noticed his withered legs. He saw no reason why his fate should be any different this time. Except, Oh, wow… that wonderful smile… He was mesmerised. Spellbound. Irresistibly drawn in like a moth to a flame, despite knowing he was destined to crash and burn like always.
His mind drifted back down the traumatic path that had brought him here. His parents had died during the war. His father was just another anonymous corpse in the 1914 trenches. His mother succumbed to heartbreak and desperate poverty two winters later, her soul destroyed by helplessly watching her little boy fade. In the cardboard box they had called home, hidden in some snow-covered bushes, he too was damned to die in her frozen, lifeless arms. But a farmer’s dog found them, and barked incessantly until his irritated master came to investigate.
The local orphanage didn’t quite have the brutal strength to put him out of his misery there and then. “He’ll never walk again,” they said. “He’ll never be adopted,” they said. “We can’t afford to waste resources on such a burden.” The words still stung.
And they were wrong. His unlikely salvation came in the form of Aunt Hilda, an elderly spinster. She was more sternly pragmatic than kindly sympathetic. Her first action had been to break his useless legs in several places. For the next nine months, she had strapped his shattered limbs into a traction rack that bore a frightening similarity to a medieval torture device. She fed him the most horrible foul-tasting gruel. He had not understood it had the perfect ingredients for his weak bones to repair and rebuild as best they could.
She had given him a toy aeroplane to take his mind off the interminable bed-ridden agony. But it did much more than that. She had seen the spark in his eyes as he ‘flew’ around the mountainous blanket.
She forced him to do the excruciating exercises that strengthened his straightened legs, no matter how much he had begged and cried. He spent his childhood doing hard labour: shovelling coal, digging ditches, felling trees, chopping firewood, moving rocks… She set extra lessons and doubled his school homework. There was never time for play nor friends.
He had cursed her every moment of every day back then. But it was thanks to her that he could walk at all today. He knew now that she always had his best interests in mind.
Her tape measure was never satisfied, as he matured into a strapping young man. He regularly drew admiring glances from the local girls. He had even tried to chat a few of them up. But they all callously rejected him with mocking laughter. They enjoyed looking at his upper half, but with those pathetic legs, their interest stopped there.
Aunt Hilda’s relentless and remorseless demands were never intended to help him find love. Rather, she prepared him for the pilot training selection day. The Treaty of Versailles outlawed any official Luftwaffe, but in 1924 the Russians built Lipetsk airfield solely for training German pilots. Places were few and precious. They could accept only the very best of the very best candidates.
Otto’s upper body and brain were easily top of the class. His weak legs were bottom. Sceptical assessors demanded more and more punitive tests, determined to find fault. But he was equally determined to triumph. He didn’t even grimace or grunt as his bandy little legs squashed all doubts about his capabilities.
Everything changed when he returned home. The coveted acceptance letter grasped in his victorious hand was greeted by the first ever smile from Aunt Hilda.
In all of the eight years he had known her, she had never once been remotely pleased with him. But on that day, the old woman had smiled broadly, hugged him tightly, and with a lonely tear in her eye, proudly declared: “Well done, my boy. Now your dreams can come true.”
Otto could feel the difference, basking in the glow of her smile. He knew he would have performed even better, if she had just shown him a little love. To maximise his potential, she had left no room for compromise, compensating for his handicap. But there had been no room for a hug or a smile either. He realised she had focused so completely on his body and mind, that his heart and soul had been wholly ignored.
He chose to believe she had done the best she could. He resolved to be grateful for being given his life back, and a miraculous chance to follow his calling. Maybe expressing love and affection were beyond her abilities? She was a spinster, after all.
He owed Aunt Hilda everything. He had looked forward to repaying her, showing her the smiles and love she had missed, now that he knew what was lacking from their relationship. But he didn’t get the chance. She passed away suddenly while he was still in basic training. She didn’t even get to be proud of his burgeoning success, when he graduated as top gun.
Alone in the world, he had only his flying to console him. He was a clever guy. He listened and learned. But he was not content to merely fly. He wanted to know Why? How did the plane stay airborne? What would happen if he went beyond the limits, even for a moment…
He calculated, estimated, hypothesized, simulated with his wooden toy, then explored and experimented for real. He developed unique tricks and techniques that seemingly defied the laws of physics. He could make aeroplanes do things that even the designers had thought impossible. By the ripe old age of 24 his talent was unequalled in the Russian skies. To go further, his ambitious commanders risked sending him on the course in England…
And now here he was, sitting in this mess hall, bewildered that he should feel so weak and helpless whenever he looked at the English angel with the heavenly smile.
Her friendly demeanour invited an approach. But he could barely speak her language, relying on a little pocket translator to make himself understood. He’d have to learn fast.
* * * * *
There is an eternal question: Is there such a thing as love at first sight?
Otto had never considered it before. His past encounters with women had been so painfully crushing, he had given up any and all thoughts of love and romance long ago. But as his knees felt even weaker than usual, threatening to buckle completely with every glimpse of his goddess, he was forced to confront the question for the first time ever.
Thoroughly modern Elizabeth had long since decided It was a stupid question, and not worthy of further contemplation. She was romantic enough, but believed she would have to choose a partner to woo, and work hard to win him. So far, however, she had never met a man she felt worthy of trying to win.
She had spent most of the 1920’s fighting for empowerment. It infuriated her that she was deemed inferior for being a mere woman. That the sexism of the day rewarded men over women for everything.
Even the Great War itself had sexist origins. Queen Victoria’s first child, Victoria, was usurped for the crown by her younger brother Edward. So she married the Prussian Kaiser Wilhelm instead, thereby sowing the seeds for the family squabble over the British throne when her son Wilhelm 2 believed his mother had been cheated out of it.
Her father had been quite right. That silly aristocracy had spilled the blood of millions, purely because Queen Victoria’s first born child had been female. IT HAD TO CHANGE.
She didn’t chain herself to any railings like the militant Suffragettes that grabbed all the front page headlines. As a passive Suffragist, she bombarded all of the national newspapers with letters. Her well-reasoned arguments were infused with subtle emotionally manipulative language, adding an intangible layer of irresistible charismatic influence. She knew that logic alone was not enough. People will not be swayed by mere facts, no matter how irrefutable, if they choose to believe otherwise. Persuading anyone to change their mind requires charming their heart, not convincing their intellect.
She had only played one small, almost invisible part. But ten long, grinding years, brought victory in 1928. Equal rights to vote! It was an empty victory; despite the new laws, it changed virtually nothing. You can’t legislate how people should feel. In her misogynist workplace, she was still deemed incapable of any kind of man’s work.
She had been drifting in aimless frustration ever since, stuck in a menial job without purpose or goal, nor even a companion to commiserate with.
And now here she was, still serving the mash, except she was giggling like a schoolgirl, blushing scarlet every time that man caught her staring at him.
At first she would look away quickly in acute embarrassment. But then she realised his friendly eyes were welcoming hers. It wasn’t long before she was brave enough to engage eye contact for the eternity that exists within the lifetime of every solitary second.
In the passionate heat of the moment, neither of them realised they had the blindingly obvious answer to the eternal stupid question.
* * * * *
Otto spent his spare time thumbing through his translator, trying to put sentences together. His woeful inexperience meant he could barely say romantic stuff in his mother tongue. He was going to make a complete fool of himself trying to say it in English. But it had to be worth a try. Her smile brought him to life in a way that even his flying never had.
The mealtimes came and went all too quickly. He practiced saying “Yes, please” and “Thank you”. Everyone sneered and sniggered as his heavy accent distorted his words. Everyone except Elizabeth, that is.
She bristled at her compatriots for laughing at him. At least he was trying to speak English – and having to do it all on his own – which was a darn sight more effort than they were putting in.
She silenced their rude condescension by responding to his latest “Tank you wery mooch” with a “Bitte schon”.
She felt the heat of their disapproving glares for her betrayal, but it was well worth it. The man’s ruggedly handsome face lit up in a beaming smile, flashing pearly whites that sent her heart afluttering to new dizzying heights. Smit-TEN. Smit-TEN. Smit-TEN.
Otto had been thrilled to hear the woman replying in German. Fortunately, he had both feet planted at the time, because one leg alone would not have held him up. He leaned on the counter for extra support, feeling daft when his mouth split his face from ear to ear, but he just couldn’t help himself.
Mein Gott! She actually likes me! What had seemed a futile quest, saw a faint flicker of happy hope he might actually succeed.
* * * * *
The training week was nearly over already. The graduation ceremony was to be finished off with a dinner-dance. The other pilots all had wives or girlfriends, or found companions in the local pubs. But Otto had only his phrase book for company in the lonely barracks.
He thumbed the dog-eared pages, desperately trying to find the right words for his very own stupid question. Nothing sounded right, but it would have to do. He fervently hoped she would understand.
The day before the dance, after the evening meal, Otto waited anxiously in the dimly lit gloom outside the kitchen. He took a deep nervous breath when Elizabeth emerged from the staff door, heading home. She didn’t see him as she fumbled in her bag for her gloves. His voice launched the perfect ambush.
“Excuse you me please Liz.”
The hesitant guttural staccato startled Liz, stopping her dead in her tracks. The shadowy man stepped closer while her eyes adjusted to the low light, but his accent had already revealed his identity.
The adrenalin surge that had set her heart racing was not responsible for it continuing to race. Her favourite test subject advanced to within touching distance with no food counter separating them. Heart in her mouth, she stood still with the fearful thrill of his close proximity. But she stayed cautiously silent, unnerved that somehow he already knew her name.
Otto was likewise having some major difficulties. His wobbly legs were trembling uncontrollably, and he was finding it hard to breathe, never mind speak.
His voice wavering significantly, he began his offence: “I call Otto. I get name by kitchen talk. Ummm.” His mind went blank. His ears glowed red hot.
He peered down at the notes his shaking hand was clutching far too tightly. He cleared his throat and read: “Would you me along together with dance next day go?”
Then he tacked a quick “Bitte? Ummm. Please?” afterthought on the end.
First, Liz had to overcome the surprise. Then it took her quite a few moments more to translate the translation. But her shocked expression needed no translation. Otto was instantly convinced he must have said something supremely idiotic and offensive. His doubts that he had expressed himself adequately increased exponentially as the awkward silent seconds ticked by.
Liz was shocked alright. But not in the way Otto imagined. Psychoanalyst Liz was too busy thinking hard in astounded revelation to be offended.
‘I call Otto. I get name by kitchen talk.’ She chuckled to herself when she figured out he wasn’t talking about getting his name from ‘kitchen talk’, but learning her name by listening to the ladies chatting in the kitchen. She was impressed that he had taken the trouble to find out her name. She was more impressed that he was considerate enough to include the pre-emptive explanation, anticipating her wariness of the familiarity. What impressed her most, was that he had done all of that, in a language he had no idea how to speak.
She was in awe of the sterling effort this man had put in, just for his introduction. She stared at him in disbelief. She searched his hopeful eyes, seeing a little deeper than before, but getting nowhere near the bottom.
He could feel her eyes probing his, and tried to reveal his intentions. Maybe she could see how he felt about her? Perhaps a glimpse of his yearning soul might succeed where his words had apparently failed? He wished with all of his heart to show her how much her smile meant to him. But her look of disbelief remained.
She almost forgot she had a question to answer, but her thudding SMIT-TEN heart reminded her how delighted she was that he had asked her to be his dance partner. She was deeply flattered, because no pilot ever stooped so low as to consider the kitchen help worthy of their company. This man clearly did things his own way, paying no heed to convention. She liked that. Liked that a lot.
I wonder how well he can dance? she wondered, glancing down at his least impressive assets, and worrying if they were liabilities. He was obviously no Fred Astaire. She imagined what he would look like doing a waltz. Ugh! Hideous! She was unaware of her face revealing how she felt about the gruesome sight.
His heart sank when she looked down. He saw the same old look of revulsion whenever a woman seriously evaluated his potential, and realised his legs were hopelessly inadequate. She seemed disgusted by the audacity of his delusional, insulting request. Her expression of contempt warned him to brace for an imminent slap for his insolence, and yet another mortifying rejection.
The horrifying idea that had amplified her reaction was the dawning in her thoughts that maybe those damaged legs could not dance at all. Her smit-ten heart understood completely. It clamoured to ask Why? Why would a man who could not dance invite her to be his partner? But her mind still wasn’t paying any attention.
Does it even matter if he can dance or not? she challenged. Perhaps it would be interesting to find out? Yes, she could have a bit of fun doing a field experiment to establish just how handi-capable her ever-more-interesting test subject was.
Wrapped up in her thoughts, she didn’t notice her subconscious mind taking heed of her longing heart, nor giving permission to go ahead and indulge her secret desires.
Otto stood silently, feeling the tears well up as he waited despondently for his inevitable shaming. Yet another humiliation, but at least he had tried. Her smile had been worth the pain he was about to receive.
She saw his eyes moistening, and hope drain from his face. Startled, she realised how her lack of response had been a cruel torment for him. She realised how desperately he was wanting her to say yes. She realised how devastated he would be if she said no. She realised she had the power to break this man with a simple two-letter word. She was touched in a way that no man had ever touched her before. She was deeply moved.
He is truly someone very special, Liz concluded.
Then she realised how eagerly she wanted to say YES! The mere thought of spending an evening dancing with this man – touching him, holding him, feeling him – was intoxicating.
Slowly her devil-red lips framed another glorious smile, and at long last she replied, “Yes. Yes, Otto, I would love to accompany you to the dance tomorrow.”
Otto blinked away his brimming tears in puzzled confusion. That wasn’t the slap he had been bracing for, but her answer stung him just as hard. “Yes? Nein! Yes?” He understood the “yes” bit, but he was still in denial she had actually said it.
She nodded her beautiful smiling head in confirmation, and posed for a waltz to show she meant it. He jumped all of two inches off the ground for joy. “Danke! Danke schon!” The broadest, goofiest grin of his life took control of his face while he hopped about with overjoyed glee.
All week long she had been the sole friendly soul amongst the hostile animosity. She had welcomed him, nay, accepted him exactly as he was, and she wasn’t even phased by the laughable notion that he could dance.
He knew he had said it all wrong, no idea how badly wrong, but she had taken the time and trouble to work it all out. She had made the effort to reach out and accommodate all of his failings, verbal and physical. And she had still said yes to him, spindly bent legs and all. He was deeply moved.
She is truly someone very special, Otto concluded.
He wanted to burst with euphoria. The anticipation of spending an evening dancing with this woman – touching her, holding her, feeling her – was intoxicating.
It was simply too much. He could not contain himself. Scandalously, he breached protocol and grabbed her hand for an over-excited squeeze of gratitude. The first contact with her soft skin was so exhilarating, he lost all inhibition.
This is naughty, he chastised himself, as he lifted her hand to his mouth. A lifetime of stifled passion spilled over into his feverish kiss.
His jubilant reception left Liz feeling quite flushed with excitement. When he took her hand, the first contact with his warm skin escalated the flush into giddiness. But when his reckless lips ravished her fingers, it was simply too much. It was all happening a bit too fast. Feeling quite faint, her heart instructed her legs to give way towards Otto as she swooned.
She floated onto cloud nine as his strong arms caught her easily. He held her close to his Herculean chest as his little legs frantically sought the Herculean strength they needed to hold them both up.
Otto floated onto cloud nine with her. His instinctive catch had been so easy, it was like she had deliberately fallen into his arms. But he was still in denial; no woman had ever sought his touch before. Surely she didn’t want him to hold her tightly like this? He froze with fright when she seemed to snuggle even closer! Gasping for breath, his heart hammered with the terror of the divine torture.
This was unimaginable new territory for Otto.
It was all happening a bit too fast. He was paralysed for a moment, holding the woman of his dreams slightly awkwardly, straining legs quivering, completely unable to move, and no idea what to do next. He might have caught her, but it had been a trap, for he was now her helpless prisoner.
Her intuitive ploy had worked like a charm. The man of her dreams had caught her effortlessly. She felt safe and secure, captive in his strong arms. She stayed still, not wanting to escape his clutches.
This is naughty, she scolded herself, keeping her eyes closed, but failing to hide her wickedly devilish smile. Sighing with delight, her heart hammered with the thrill of the divine pleasure.
She assumed the deafening noise thumping in her ears was an echo of her excited heart throbbing away in her chest. Bursting with euphoria, she could not contain herself. Scandalously, she breached protocol and put a hand to his chest to savour his flexing muscle. To her total astonishment, she felt his heart pounding violently in perfect harmonious synch with her own. SMIT-TEN. SMIT-TEN. SMIT-TEN.
She stared at his heaving chest in curious wonder. All inhibition lost, she watched her fingers intimately explore the masculine features of her favourite test subject.
His heart had threatened to jump right out of his chest when she gently put her hand against it. The sensitive touch of her feminine fingers sent such power coursing through his veins, it gave him all the might in the world to scoop her up completely off her feet.
She even put her arms around his neck to help, as he carried her to her bicycle. He did not question for one moment whether his legs had the strength to do that. They just did what they had to, because he would not have it any other way. She was right where he wanted her to be, being cradled like the priceless treasure she was. He felt completely accepted, ecstatic with rapture, and never wanted to ever let her go.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, as he swept her off her feet, and carried her to her bicycle. His legs staggered noticeably with the effort, but she did not doubt for one moment that they had the strength to do it, because she would not have it any other way. He was right where she wanted him to be, carrying her like the Prince Charming he was. She felt completely desired, ecstatic with rapture, and never wanted to ever let him go.
She is uniquely special, sighed Otto, watching her riding away. His heart aching to the point of breaking, it risked whispering an even more incredibly stupid question.
* * * * *
Where is he? wondered Liz, glancing at her watch. It’s not like him to be late for lunch.
Everyone else had been, eaten, and gone. The other ladies had already cleared their stations. Liz lingered alone with the dregs of her mash.
Suddenly, the door burst open. Otto came speed-limping in towards the counter, corners of his mouth twitching with a hint of a grin.
“You’re late,” she snapped, far more harshly than she meant to. “There’s nothing left…” His eyes widened in disappointed surprise, looking down at the empty counter. “Take a seat,” she said, heart melting with his crestfallen look. “I’ll make you a sandwich.” She gave him a warm smile, and he perked up immediately. She hastened back to the kitchen, to assemble some roast beef and bread.
He sat down at the nearest table, his head full of confusion. Hungry stomach gnawing, filling him with shame that he had missed lunch. Joy at seeing another smile. More shame that his sin caused her extra trouble to feed him. More joy that she cared enough to do that for him. All mixed up with breathless anticipation…
He patted his pocket for reassurance. The little box nestling there had been ordained. He had spent his lunchtime scouring the small high street of the nearby village, desperately trying to find something appropriate.
He saw it in the jewellers’ window, and rushed in to ask. But when the woman behind the counter heard his awkward words and accent, her face hardened. “That kind of thing is made to order,” she scowled. She’d all but pointed a finger at the door and ordered him to leave.
The tears had been welling up again, all hope seemingly lost, when he was dazzled by a stray sunbeam glinting off the bay window of a little shop down a side street. Like the shining beacon of a lighthouse, it drew him closer.
Oh! YES! This is IT. He kept quiet this time. He tiptoed inside “Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe” and just pointed at the window showcasing the antique, but perhaps most beautiful ring he had ever seen. It wasn’t just the exquisite goldsmithing of the highest Victorian craftsmanship. It was the way the solitaire diamond sparkled coyly in the centre, as if embarrassed about its brilliance.
He had just enough money, too. Ordained, he thought again.
A special ring, for a special lady. Now as closely guarded next to his heart as the stupid question itself. Tonight. At the dance. He didn’t dare to wonder what she’d say this time.
* * * * *
Liz was surprised how much it hurt, feeling the hatred in the offended stares as she entered the dance hall on his arm that night. Now she knew exactly what Otto had been subjected to all week long.
The couple was ostracised for the entire evening, but that just helped Liz to stay focused on the man who had already surpassed all of her wildest expectations.
The unlikeliest of lovers kept well away from centre stage, not even risking the main dance floor. But they had a nice enough time on their own, hidden away in a quiet corner.
They didn’t talk much, but there wasn’t much that needed to be said. They ate and drank. They gazed wistfully into each others’ eyes. They laughed hysterically when they trod on each others’ toes. They held each other tight. They cherished each other all night.
Otto waited all evening for the perfect moment. But he simply became more emboldened of his intent with the delicious thrill of every intimate instant that passed.
Liz was expecting him to travel back to Germany on the morrow, and to her this dance was just a nice way to say goodbye. So when Otto dropped down onto one awkward knee in the middle of the last slow dance of the evening, she was caught somewhere between disbelieving shock and dumbfounded horror. He proffered her the special ring from his pocket, and quietly suggested “Please marry.”
Psychoanalyst Liz had all the time in the world to properly consider it, while the music played on…
All evening, he had been the perfect gentleman. Holding the door open, letting her go first, fetching her drinks, adjusting her chair, anticipating her every need. And yet, when it became obvious he had never, ever, danced before, he willingly submitted, following her lead, letting her teach him without any masculine pride getting in the way.
It was strange and unfamiliar to her to have any man – never mind an ace pilot, supremely skilled and talented – give her that much respect and empowerment. She had never seen a man behave like this before. No man had ever treated her like this before.
This was unimaginable new territory for Liz.
Despite her intellect and independence, the pinnacle of her ten year career was serving mash in an RAF mess hall. But Otto showed no preconceptions about her social status or value. He had not even treated her like an equal, but more like his Queen, revered and honoured in all matters including manners, etiquette and decorum. Like him being down on one knee, right now.
Oh, my, this isn’t really happening. Is it? She could barely hear herself think above the deafening SMIT-TEN SMIT-TEN SMIT-TEN.
Liz searched deeply into eyes that sparkled even more brightly than the twinkling diamond. He gently ushered her all the way in, right to the very core of his delicate soul. He showed her the one and only thing that really mattered to him in the entire world: Reflected right there in his eyes, appearing to be deep within him at the very centre of his being, she saw the beaming smile on her own face.
OH! she gasped. But if… all he wants… then… No! Surely, it can’t be…
What she was still finding impossible to accept, was that she didn’t have to do anything to win him. He was already hers to have, right there for the taking, still down on bended knee. And he clearly wanted her, just as much if not more than she wanted him. How could this be so simple? So easy? So perfect?
She softly stroked his fuzzy head. She caressed his square jaw. He tenderly nuzzled his cheek against her hand, filling them both with amorous bliss. All while he patiently waited down there on the floor for her, puppy dog eyes eager to jump at any chance to please.
The tidal wave that had been sweeping Liz along all week finally flooded ashore in a tsunami of tears.
All things properly considered, thoroughly modern Liz lost her analytical head in a moment of romantic madness and fairytale sensibility. She gently nodded her tearful yet still smiling face, and whispered “Ja” with all of her emotional heart.
Ring on her finger, they sealed their future with their first kiss. The electricity they generated inspired the power surge that blew all of the lights in a shower of sparks and fireworks, giving them a shroud of darkness to relish the embrace for as long as they desired.
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