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Live, Love, Lose - 11. Chapter 11

Hey!

I hope you're still enjoying the story so far :) There's not a lot of action for now, but it will start in later chapters

Take care! ❤️

On Sunday, Karl went to church with the Hopkins family as well as George.

As far as he could remember, his family had never really been religious. They had never gone to the local church (Or maybe they had when they were young, but he couldn’t even be sure about that). And when he had asked why his mother had replied that they didn’t have time to waste to worship some invisible God that wouldn’t help them to make a proper living and with all the work that had to be done.

If his mother knew he was in a church instead of working, he was sure she wouldn’t appreciate it at all. She must have been fuming ever since he had had to leave.

It was the very first time he had been wearing a tie. Apparently, it’s needed to be dressed in nice and classy clothes if you want to get in the church. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t let you in.

No wonder he and his family had never gone to the local church then…

Since he didn’t have a tie, he had to borrow one from Paul. It was a nice black and red tie. And since he didn’t know how to tie a tie knot, Paul had to do it for him before they headed off there.

He figured out that the family had exceptionally missed the office last Sunday because Paul had brought him into their house.

He tried to apologise, but Mrs. Hopkins didn’t seem to think it was necessary as she laughed it off.

He had never seen a bible, the Holy Bible, and hadn’t even realised the Hopkins’ had one in their own house.

He clearly did not understand a single word of what was said during the entire office, didn’t even know how to pray in Danish. And he was somehow afraid people would notice, well, not afraid but more like somewhat embarrassed.

If only they knew he had never attended church in his life… He would probably be kicked out the second they would know…

The man preaching, who was looking rather old, much older than both Mr. And Mrs. Hopkins (he was probably in his sixties), was… Well, it’s not that his sermon was boring but… The way he was speaking, and the fact that Karl could only identify one word here and there… There was nothing attractive or exciting in it.

Instead of looking at him, Karl looked at the people in the assembly. They weren’t that numerous. But there were enough of them so the church wouldn’t look empty.

They all seemed to be quite interested in what the man was saying. Unlike him…

He then stole glances at the Hopkins family. He was sitting between Mrs. Hopkins and Paul. Her husband was sitting next to her, on her right, while George was sitting next to Paul, on his left. They were sitting in the front row. It was impossible for him to read the expressions on the men’s faces. Looking at them just like that, you could have thought they were almost bored. But then, maybe they were just deeply focused on what was happening. As for Mrs. Hopkins, she looked serious, attentive, invested in the service, as if attending it was a duty. But a duty that wasn’t a burden.

You could easily see the glint of fervency in her eyes.

He didn’t really know why, but he smiled as he glanced away from her. There seemed to be something so pure in this woman. The way she acted with him (well not only with him) and spoke. Yes, he had seen she could be easily offended by whatever her husband and son could say. But it didn’t make her a bad or mean person in any way.

He didn't really know much about purity and all that kind of stuff. Good and Evil were two notions he had never had the occasion to reflect upon. Because he had never been to church. And no one had clearly explained that to him. But he knew what he saw. He saw the light in her and knew what it meant.

Once service was over, they all exited the church in silence. The clergyman was bidding goodbye to his parishioners in the large doorway.

“Father,” Mrs. Hopkins said to him with a bright smile.

“Oh, Margaret. How are you?”

“I’m doing well, Father. Thank you.”

“We didn’t have the pleasure to see you last Sunday. I was surprised. I then thought something might have happened to you or to one member of your family.”

“Oh no. We are all doing fine. I’m so sorry, Father. I forgot to let you know we couldn’t come. I didn’t mean for you to be worried about any of us. Actually, Paul brought us an unexpected surprise home.”

As she said her last sentence, she was standing behind Karl with her hands on his shoulders. Even though he couldn’t see it, he was certain she was smiling.

“Father, let me introduce you, Carl. He is a young Danish boy currently living with us.”

“Oh, a Dane. Very well. It is always nice to welcome a new parishioner in our humble church. Consider this church like your other home, my son.”

“We’ve been teaching him English only for a week. So he still has a lot to learn. But he’s making quick progress.”

“Well, I am glad to hear it. It is always good to see foreigners make effort to learn our language and become integrated into our community.”

“Carl is very serious, and even though he doesn’t, he’s truly motivated.”

“Very good. Very good.”

“Oh before I forget, I wanted to tell you I really liked your sermon today. You always find the right words.”

By that time, she had let go of Karl’s shoulders and had got nearer to the churchman.

“Thank you, Margaret. You know I always appreciate hearing your kind words about me and my work. I really do. But if it weren’t for all the people that keep coming in these tough times, I highly doubt the quality of my sermons would be as good. I don’t know if you noticed, but the number of men and women has been decreasing more and more ever since the beginning of the war.”

War…

“Yes, I noticed it indeed. This is such a shame. But at the same time, it’s good to see that our people are invested in the war effort to help all this inhumanity and brutality end.”

“Yes, yes. I just hope we won’t have too many dead people to mourn. Like in the first world war.”

“Father,” Mr. Hopkins suddenly said, approaching the grey-haired man.

“Ah, Mr. Hopkins.”

They shook hands.

“If you’ll excuse me,” Mr. Hopkins said politely.

“Of course,” the man said smiling at him.

After that very short contribution, Mr. Hopkins walked away.

Karl was wondering where he was going to go like that. He was a bit surprised that he should go away without his wife by his side.

But Mrs. Hopkins didn’t seem to mind, or to be disturbed by that sudden leaving as he thought she might have been.

“May the heavens hear you, Father.”

“Oh, now that I am thinking about it, I saw you had brought someone else with you. Someone I hadn’t seen in a long while. Hmm… What is his name already?”

“George.”

“George, yes, that’s right. He has grown up quite a lot. He’s not the little boy I pictured in my head any more. He has grown into a fine young man.”

“Yes, absolutely! He reminds me of his father in some way.”

The man hummed at that, as if in agreement.

Speaking Of George, Karl suddenly noticed he wasn’t there any more. And neither was Paul for that matter. They must have slipped away from behind him.

He looked around for them on the church forecourt, but they were nowhere to be seen. Out of curiosity, he decided to go and look for them. He knew it was rude to leave just like that, but he didn’t want to interrupt.

They couldn’t have gone back home already, could they?

He chose to walk around the church to make sure about it. He found them leaning against the wall at the back of the church, Paul with a cigarette in his mouth.

He was standing not too near to them, and they didn’t notice his presence as they seemed to be talking about something. But he couldn’t hear precisely what they were saying from his position.

But he could see George smile at some point at whatever Paul had just said.

Naturally, it was such a surprising sight since George had never smiled whenever he was around him.

Anyway, it seemed that Paul had this gift, ability - he didn’t really know what word was better - to make most people smile with his mere presence, or with simple words. Unlike him. Back on his island, people would smile out of politeness when he saw them. But with Paul, it wasn’t just to be polite.

Well, maybe he was exaggerating a little bit. After all, he had hardly known him for a week…

But it was clear that he had this easy-going way with people, and a natural charisma. He certainly was the man who could become friends with anyone.

“Carl!”

Speaking of the devil…

Paul was waving at him, probably meaning for him to join them. But he was somehow reluctant, afraid to disturb them.

“Come!” Paul then shouted.

Well, he couldn’t not come. So he approached them both.

Paul smiled at him, unlike George.

“So, I hope the church wasn’t too boring for you. You were unlucky to end up in a family with such a Bible-basher mother. Thank God, we had her stop to force us to say grace during meals. We only say it on big occasions.”

“Why do you speak to him if he can’t understand what you’re saying?” George asked Paul.

Paul gave him a look that Karl couldn’t really decipher.

“How do you want him to learn English?”

George remained silent afterward.

“Ah, here’s my father.”

Father. That was a word he had never heard being pronounced so often in so short a span of time.

Mrs. Hopkins smiled at them once he was near them.

Paul took a drag of his cigarette. He was careful not to send it either in Karl’s or his father’s face as he exhaled the smoke.

It seemed that there was nothing particular to be said about this one full hour of religious service.

A long moment passed before the silence was broken.

“You know, George, you don’t have to come with us every Sunday if you don’t want to,” Mr. Hopkins said. I’m sure you can make much better use of this time for your studies.”

“Are you sure Margaret won’t mind?”

Mr. Hopkins gave him a confident smile.

“Don’t worry about that. I’ll know how to convince her.”

Karl noticed Paul was smiling as well, or maybe more like smirking.

“Thanks.”

“The same goes for you, Carl. If you don’t want to go, you don’t have to.”

Karl blinked at him, not really sure what he meant.

The negation told him it was something that he wouldn’t do. And he identified the word studies. That suddenly made all sense to him. George, who was really busy with studying for university, wasn't forced to come with them to church, so he would have more time to study, and so more chances to pass.

So…this meant he wasn’t forced to go either. But unlike George, he didn’t have anything to study for school. So what would he do all alone in their house while George would be studying? He would get quickly bored, most likely.

“I…” he stuttered unsurely. “I want...come.” He had trouble pronouncing the words, and he hoped they would understand him with his heavy accent. He found there was nothing elegant in the way he spoke English, unlike their accent.

“Are you sure you really want to? You don’t seem really enthusiastic about it.” Paul told him.

He didn’t seem to look really convinced by his answer.

Karl just nodded, hoping father and son would be satisfied with that and change the topic of conversation (since George didn’t look too concerned by it, not to say not at all).

Paul and his father exchanged a silent look.

“Listen, he can try a second time, but when, and if, he gets tired of it, he can decide to stop,” the man said to his son.

“I’m sure you’re saying it because you wouldn’t like to offend Mum, would you?” Paul told Karl.

Apparently not.

“She won’t be angry with you if you choose not to come anymore,” Paul’s father then told him with a small smile.

“No, but she will with you,” Paul answered.

“Your mother is a woman who knows to accept compromise.”

“But he already isn’t schooled, so if he doesn’t go to church… I doubt she will accept the compromise.”

“Just because he is unschooled doesn’t mean he cannot get a proper education. Learning English is already noteworthy.”

“You’ve got a point there, indeed. Learning a foreign language you have no other choice but master is wearisome and demands a lot of time and effort.” A pause then. “But honestly unlike what mum seems to think, I don’t think the pastor’s sermonising will help.”

“English is still English.”

“That’s not the kind of thing that makes you want to learn English.”

Paul took another drag of his cigarette right after he said that. There was a short moment of silence

“I guess so. No matter what he decides, the choice will still be up to him,” Mr. Hopkins said.

There was something in the way he talked. Or maybe it was something in his accent that made him unlike the others when they spoke, he didn’t quite know precisely. Well, he didn’t know anything about the different English accents. It all sounded the same to his ears whenever he heard an English person say something. Yet, there was something different in Mr. Hopkins's voice. He couldn’t be mistaken about this. Something that made his words sound nicer in a way.

It’s somehow strange that he’s only thinking about it now. Or that he thought about it so early, so suddenly.

He just decided to shrug the thought off of his mind.

“I just hope Mum won’t take too long,’’ Paul said. “Since she missed church last Sunday, I’m afraid she might stay twice as long to catch up on what she missed.”
“Well, if such is the case, she’ll join us directly at home,” his father replied.

It was silent again afterward. And it remained like that for a little while, until Mr. Hopkins decided to speak up again.

“Let us go and wait for her before the church.”

 

Copyright © 2021 LittleCherryBlossom26; All Rights Reserved.
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This continues to be an interesting story set in difficult times. Karl is trying his best to fit in, and not to be a bother to the family. 

Mr. And Mrs. Hopkins have them same sort of family dynamics my grandparents had (coming from UK) and based on the time, only 20 some years from WWI, Mr. Hopkins may have had some exposure to that which affects him.

Paul seems friendly enough while George continues to be hard to accept or relate to Karl. Let's hope things get a little better for Karl.

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I am not sure the family dynamics describe here are unique to the UK.  My mother's mother and my great aunts and uncle on mom's side display many of these same characteristics.  My mother's father was atypical with his warm and affectionate nature.  My dad's folks were almost polar opposites in their behaviours and family dynamics.  They were warm and affectionate people who were caring and giving.  George almost acts scared or maybe jealous of Karl.  They all are very hard to identify with on an emotional level.   

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