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Live, Love, Lose - 15. Chapter 15

During the following weekend they all went to the south of England on the coast, following Mrs. Hopkins’s suggestion. They spent it in a place called “Brighton”. Karl had never known anything at all about England’s geography, but now he knew at least the names of three places.

He had to admit that it was nice to see the sea again. It always looked beautiful under the sun, with its shiny water.

He liked how the beaches looked so huge, how they almost seemed to be endless. Pretty much like the sea itself. That must have been why he liked the seaside so much. This beach in Brighton looked really nice, but it was different from the one in his home town. In his home town, the seaside was much wilder, and that’s what made it so wonderful and magical.

There were a few people on the beach. It wasn’t fully crowded like London’s or Copenhagen’s streets, but it wasn’t as if there were only two or three people. Not that he minded.

They looked for a spot that wouldn’t be too close to anyone present, so they could have some sort of privacy.

“This is such a lovely day!” Mrs. Hopkins beamed once they found one. It was neither too close to the sea nor too far from it. It was halfway between the water and the cobblestones.

“We were right to come here today,” she then added.

No one answered to this, either because they were too lost in their own thoughts to do so.

“Well, who is hungry now?”

They all sat down on a blanket she put on the sand so they would be more comfortable. Mrs. Hopkins sat in the middle with her husband next to her and Karl on her left. Paul sat next to his father while George sat next to Karl. They all ate sandwiches Mrs. Hopkins had prepared herself the previous evening. They were simple but good. Anything she made was always so good anyway.

Everything looked so calm, almost as if the world had stopped temporarily. No one spoke. Even Mrs. Hopkins didn’t seem to be willing to make small talk. Only the noise of the waves could be heard.

As he was staring at the sea, he suddenly remembered the time when he would go to the seaside with his father and siblings, when he was a child, to bathe in the water. He had learnt to swim thanks to them. One of his happiest memories, if not the most.

Ever since they had both left home, he hadn’t gone back to swim. He had always known it wouldn’t be the same without them.

Besides he had had twice as much work with the farm to even think about leisure time. The more the better.

Had he already thought about leaving the farm for Copenhagen like them?

Yes, he had. He had tried to imagine what his life could have looked like without the farm. His brother and sister had expressed how sorry they felt for him, that he shouldn’t be the one to bear that burden, and that he should do what they did, that he could never really be happy if he remained at the farm forever with their parents.

He had pondered about it. But he simply couldn’t do this to his father. He had done so much for them.

Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder, making him start lightly. He turned his head to see Mrs. Hopkins was the one who had her hand on it.

“Would you like some water, Carl?”

She was holding a glass bottle in her free hand.

“Yes, please.”

Once they finished eating, Paul moved away nearer to the cobblestones to smoke a cigarette. Karl watched him in silence before glancing at George. He was looking really concerned, most likely because of his best friend. Anyway, there was nothing he could do about it.

After staring at the sea for some more time, he decided to join Paul. He was sitting on the sand, taking a drag of his cigarette. Paul gave him a small smile as soon as they locked eyes, and Karl returned it. He sat next to him, on his right, and looked in the distance. They both remained silent for a little while.

“You…” Paul looked at him. “Do you have friends at war?” He needed to speak really slowly and distinctly to manage to make a proper sentence.

He asked out of curiosity more than for anything else.

“Most of my friends are my colleagues, the men I work with, whom you’ve already met. Fortunately for us, the government was clever enough to realise they need us too much to send us to fight.”

Karl just nodded. He didn’t really understand his second sentence, but he figured out the first one, and he deemed that was enough.

“I have my childhood friend who is in the RAF though. So this means he has to take part in the war.”

“The R...A...F…”

“Yes, that’s right. The Royal Air Force. He’s an officer. His name’s Arthur.”

The Royal…Air…Force…

“Look,” Paul then said, and Karl looked at him again. He pointed towards the sky.

“The Royal Air Force fight with aircrafts in the sky.” He then pointed towards the sea. “To fight on the sea with ships, we have the Royal Navy.” And then he tapped the ground next to his right foot. “And to fight on the land, it’s simply the British Army.” A pause. “We call them the British Expeditionary Force, just like in World War One.”

Karl managed to figure out what he meant, even if he didn’t know anything about fighting and armies.

“George’s best friend is a part of it.”

Karl kept quiet. Paul remained silent as well for a little while.

“What’s World War One?” Karl ended up asking him.

He waited for a few seconds before he replied as he looked at Karl straight in the eye, a grave expression plastered on his face.

“We call it ‘World War One’ because it was the first war in history that involved so many countries in it.” A pause. “Originally it opposed Germany to France, but then alliances were formed on both sides. “That was a war that had nothing to do with England in the first place, but the government decided to support the French and we became their allies. I still can’t really understand why though…” Another pause. “My father fought in that war. He had to go to France and leave us. I don’t really remember that time because I was only three years old when he had to leave. It’s most likely not the kind of memories you want to remember anyway.”

Karl tried to take in everything Paul had just said.

“Today it’s World War Two because it’s all started again. Not for the same reasons though.”

Karl kept quiet once again. What he understood basically is that there had been a first war, between different countries, though he couldn’t say which ones apart from England, and now they were at war again…

“For Hitler…?” He broke the silence, causing Paul to look at him again.

“Yes, because of that fucking bastard.”

“Who…Who is he?”

Karl was clearly intrigued by the man he had never seen, having only heard his name once.

“He’s an Austrian dictator who took over Germany a few years ago.”

“Austrian…”

“Yes, Austrian dictator. Sorry, you probably can’t understand everything I tell you.”

Yes, of course…unfortunately…

“I’ll show you on a map where it is. It’ll be easier.”

Map…another word he couldn’t recognise. But he wasn’t really worried about it. He couldn’t know every English word so soon. All of a sudden he remembered what his father had told him before he left home.

And don’t worry, we’ll see each other again. I just don’t know how long it will take until you can come back home.

The more he thought about it the more likely it was that he couldn’t be back home anytime soon…

At least, if so he would have plenty of time to master English to communicate properly. It’s best to focus on positive things in this situation.

“What are you talking about?”

He recognised George’s voice and looked up to see him standing before them.

“Nothing you’d be interested in,” Paul replied.

He took another drag of his cigarette.

George didn’t say anything. He waited for a little bit before he decided to sit down next to Paul.

“What about we go for a swim in the sea?” Paul asked after the smoke dissipated in the air.

George looked at him as if he had just said something odd.

“But…we don’t have any bathing suits,” the younger male said.

“And so what if we don’t? Who said you necessarily need a bathing suit to swim?”

George didn’t reply.

“We can still swim in our underwear,” Paul added casually.

George seemed to be thinking about what he said.

“Or even naked.”

George’s jaw dropped.

“You’re kidding…”

Paul smirked at this.

“What? You’re afraid?”

“No!” He couldn’t seem to find the right words to say. “I’m not afraid! I just doubt your parents would appreciate this.”

His answer had Paul laugh.

“So you’re afraid.”

“No, I’m not!”

Paul laughed again, but louder this time.

“Stop laughing!”

“I dare you,” Paul said when he finally stopped laughing.

There was a long moment of silence that followed his words.

“I’ll do it,” George started saying, and he briefly met Karl’s gaze. “Only if he does too.”

Karl wasn’t sure what they had been talking about exactly, but he could feel it was something that had to do with him…

“Dare,” Paul said before he glanced at Karl. “But only if he wants to.”

“Dare,” George repeated.

Paul took another drag of his cigarette and looked at Karl.

“Would you like to go for a swim in the sea?” He made gestures with his hands, most likely to make himself clearer. And Karl instantly understood what he meant. “Wait, do you know how to swim?” He furrowed his eyebrows a bit as he asked this.

Before Karl could even have time to think he proceeded.

“I mean, you can swim, right?”

“Yes, I can.”

“Good. But…the thing is…you see…you’d have to do it naked…”

Karl just blinked at him as a response.

“Naked,” he tried to make gestures to try to help, but it seemed to be much more difficult this time. “Without clothes.”

He looked away from Karl to stare at George.

“I don’t think he’s going to understand the word…”

“I had a feeling he wouldn’t.”

Paul looked back at Karl after a few instants.

“Just forget about that word,” then he looked back at George. “Let’s just do this in underwear, okay?”

He looked back at Karl again. “So would you like to go for a swim?”

He hadn’t thought they had come there to swim in the sea. But then, what was the point in coming to the seaside if it’s not to swim at least once?

But it wouldn’t be the same as it used to be at home… Yet, it couldn’t be that bad either, could it?

“Selvfølgelig.”

Right after he said that he started undressing. He removed his white shirt, his braces, his singlet, his shoes, socks, and his pants. He let everything fall on the sand carelessly. And finally, he removed his underwear.

“What…what is he doing…?” He could hear George say as he did.

When he was fully naked he looked at the both of them. If he was going to swim, he wasn’t going to go alone. He would find it weird otherwise.

George looked like he had just seen a ghost, and as for Paul, well…it wasn’t long before he started bursting out into laughter.

“Dare,” he said as he looked at George once again.

Silence followed this.

“Oh no…this is going to be really awkward…” George ended up saying, still looking somehow horrified.

“Hey! You’re the one who said it, not me,” Paul interfered. “So just deal with the consequences of your own words.”

“…”

“And hurry up. Don’t let him stand here for too long like this.”

“…”

They both ended up naked in the water, again not too close to each other. The only thing that struck Karl was how George ran to get into the water, without even waiting for him.

It looked like he had never swum in the sea fully naked.

Of course, Karl already had. As if his parents could afford bathing suits. Besides, he had only bathed with his family around and no one else. But even there it seemed only natural to him, even if he wasn’t with his family.

He had to admit that feeling the cool water engulfing his body was a really nice feeling. He let his head float in the water and stared at the bright blue and cloudless sky. He forgot about everything and everyone surrounding him as he kept staring at it.

He didn’t even realise George had left the water meanwhile. After a while, he decided to get out of it. He noticed from afar that Paul and George were back to their spot with Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins.

“But…why did you and George do…this…?” Mrs. Hopkins asked as soon as he got near them. She looked absolutely horrified.

After second thought, maybe he shouldn’t have done it…

“That’s something he did back home,” Paul said. “And George wanted to give it a try.”

It seemed that Mrs. Hopkins didn’t know what to say after that.

Karl didn’t even dare look at her now. He glanced at Mr. Hopkins instead. He wasn’t as horrified as his wife was. But he didn’t look amused by it either. He quickly searched for his clothes.

“That is alright, Margaret. It is not as if we knew anyone here anyway,” he heard Mr. Hopkins say.

His clothes were nowhere in sight… He glanced at Paul because the last time he saw them, they were near him, further in the back. But the older man just winked at him with a tiny smirk. He didn’t know what that was supposed to mean, but he felt everything was okay.

He was really thankful to have a friend like him.

 

***

They spent the evening and night in a house not that far away from the sea.

“This house used to belong to Robert’s parents,” Mrs. Hopkins told Karl once they had entered it.

Even if he could understand what she had just said, he simply nodded. The house seemed to be really nice, as nice as their own house in London.

“I’ll let you get settled,” she then said, making him look back at her to see her smiling at him.

It seemed that she had already forgotten what had happened earlier.

He smiled back at her and nodded again.

Quickly afterward, she moved away and was soon out of sight.

He decided to explore the house on his own. There were three bedrooms. One for Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins, one for Paul, and so this meant he would have to share this room here with George as well. Unless George preferred to share it with Paul. Not that he would mind.

He didn’t even know what room he was supposed to take.

Instead of thinking too much about this, he discovered there were two bathrooms as well. One on the ground floor and one on the first floor. Mr. Hopkins’s parents must have been really rich people.

He opted for a shower after the sea bath he had taken. Since he could use it, he might as well make good use of it.

Except that once he was in the upper floor bathroom, in the middle of undressing, someone opened the door without knocking. It was George.

“Sorry,” was all he said before he closed the door in a flash.

Was there something traumatising about seeing him half-naked?

Karl didn’t pay much thought to this. After all, it was the way they had all been made.

He shrugged and resumed undressing, but he could hear George’s voice through the door.

“Dinner’s already ready. We’ll be eating in the dining room.”

Karl just stared at the door. Wasn’t it necessary to reply anything to this?

“Not in the kitchen, the dining room,” he heard again.

Karl held back a sigh. He knew the distinction between the two. That’s part of the many things Mrs. Hopkins had taught him.

“Okay,” he just replied.

He didn’t hear the other male walk away, but he guessed he did as soon as he said that.

To his great surprise, they both arrived at the same time in the dining room.

Mrs. Hopkins grinned at them as soon as they approached the table. The only two seats that were available were next to each other. It was almost as if they were doing this on purpose, probably so it would make things easier for them to try to befriend each other. Not that Karl would be angry at them if so. Unlike the table they had in their London house, this one was round, round yet big, with just enough seats for all of them.

George and himself sat down exactly at the same time. Such a coincidentally perfect timing.

They glanced at each other. Karl hoped what had happened wouldn’t make things too awkward between them. They were already awkward enough like that. No need to make it much worse. Not when he thought things could start to get better between them. Even if they didn’t become friends.

That evening they were eating the leftovers from the previous evening’s meal. Fish, peas, and potatoes.

That moment, he thought, was the right one to ask about the bedrooms, a thing that had slipped from his mind until then.

“For the bedrooms…” he started, feeling he couldn’t make a proper sentence.

Funny how depending on the situation it could be much easier or much more difficult.

“Oh, well, Robert and I will take the one that’s downstairs. And so it’s up to you, Paul and George to see how you want to get organised.”

Karl nodded at her before focusing his gaze on Paul. The latter made eye contact with him.

“We’ll do as you two wish,” he said, glancing at George.

Karl glanced at him as well, waiting for him to speak. But he didn’t seem to be willing to say anything. Seconds were passing, and no one said anything. It seemed that everyone else was waiting for him to say something as well.

“Well, you can take the room on the left while Carl and I can take the one on the right,” he ended up saying after a little while.

Wait.

Did he really just say "Karl and I"?

This time Karl turned his head to really look at him, kind of confused.

“Alright. That’s fine with me,” Paul answered.

The thing is, George never looked back at him. No, instead he finished eating what was on his plate, seemingly ignoring him.

How curious. He thought that he would have preferred to share his room with Paul since there were two rooms. After all, from what he had seen, they seemed to be much closer than George and himself probably could ever be.

So, yeah. This was really curious.

*
“You’re going to bed already? But it’s hardly eight-thirty.”

Karl, Paul, and George were now before their respective rooms.

“Yes,” Paul replied. “Because tomorrow morning we’ll all be up at six A.M doing some running on the beach.”

George looked annoyed after hearing that.

“Do you know that you’re not funny?”

Paul didn’t look annoyed in the least.

“Hey, I didn’t force you to share one of the rooms with him.” A pause and George didn’t look any happier. “This time you had a choice. And you chose,” Paul shrugged as he was finishing his sentence.

George kept his mouth shut as if there was nothing to be said any more.

“Good night,” was the last thing Paul said to him. “Good night, Carl.” His tone wasn’t exactly the same as he spoke to him. There was something much warmer in it.

“Good night,” and with that Paul entered his room and closed the door behind him.

Karl looked at George who was looking down.

“Why?” Karl just asked. It was much simpler this way.

George finally looked at him.

“Why what?”

He knew he couldn’t make a proper sentence once again. So he thought about the simplest way to put it clearly.

“You and I... In the room.” He pointed at the said room. “Why?”

George remained mum as if he were looking for the right words to say.

“For continuity,” he finally said. And he entered the room swiftly, leaving the door open and Karl staring at it.

“Kontinuitet…” he muttered.

Really?

Meaning that if they had to share the same room for an undetermined span of time, they might as well remain glued to each other, no matter the circumstances. To learn to live with each other. It didn’t really matter whether his statement was true or not. That just made sense in a way. Or more simply he just wanted to make some effort after Karl had tried to leave the house. Or he felt obliged, or whatever.

He finally entered the room and closed the door. George was sitting on the bed and he chose to sit in front of him, near the pillows.

“You’re not going to study tonight?” Karl said out of the blue after a long moment of silence, not bothering to look him in the eye.

Maybe George did look at him, but he couldn’t be sure of it as he kept looking down.

“No. With Margaret, we came to an agreement that this would be a weekend without studying.”

Karl nodded as an acknowledgment.

He then scanned the room carefully, taking in every detail of it. It was more or less the same size as Paul’s former bedroom. It was sober, yet it looked refined. It looked as though it had remained untouched for many years.

He could feel George’s weight shift and disappear, meaning he had just stood up. He looked up to see him search for something in the bag he had brought with him. He didn’t bring any stuff with him, didn’t deem it necessary for just one night away. Especially when all he had with him was his old clothes and a blanket. It wouldn’t be much useful.

George quickly sat back on the bed. He showed him a small pack and Karl instantly knew what it was. Playing cards.

His siblings had taught him how to play when he had visited them in Copenhagen. When you weren’t visiting the city or doing anything else outside, it was a good way to keep yourself busy.

“Do you know how to play cards?”

“Like I can swim.”

He was looking at George this time as he spoke.

“Whist?”

“Yeah.”

They hadn’t played only one game, but three. And whist was one of them.

“Good.”

They started playing soon enough, George distributed the cards. It turned out that Karl won the four games, to George’s astonishment which pretty soon turned into anger.

“You’re cheating!!!” George kept repeating as they kept playing more and more games, making them forget the time that was passing.

Instead of making Karl upset, his attitude pretty amused him actually. It had him grin, maybe not like a fool, but it seemed to be enough to make George even angrier than he already was. He had to hold himself back from laughing.

“Just stop cheating! That’s not the way we play it! Where did you learn to play?”

“In Copenhagen,” he replied naturally after taking a bit of time to compose himself.

The English male only stopped shouting to glare at him. Karl simply shrugged at him.

“Det er den danske måde.”

That’s the Danish way.

But George’s facial expression remained the same. He looked away, focusing on the game again. After a little while, he could George let out an exasperated sigh.

“And stop speaking Danish. I can’t understand a word of it. And it’s not as if I wanted to learn anyway.”

Karl remained focused on the game again, even though he could figure out what he meant basically.

“You know, I don’t want to share the same bed as a cheater.”

Karl stifled a laugh as his grin made its way back on his face.

“Go with Paul,” he shrugged again, glancing up at him. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t teasing him a little bit.

“Yes. Exactly. That’s what I’m gonna do. Right after we finish this game.”

Once that game was over, George practically stormed out of the room. No need to explain why, of course.

“And for continuity?” Karl said before he could leave the room.

George was opening the door as he said that and he suddenly stopped in his movement.

“Just forget about it!”

After that, he left the room, slamming the door. And Karl burst into laughter. He ended up lying on his back on the pillows, unable to control himself any longer. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been like this, finding something so funny and laughing so much.

He had a feeling that Paul would find that really funny too.

Hello! :)

I just love the last part between George and Karl so much 😏😍🥰

Take care until next chapter ❤️

Have a good day/evening/night!

Copyright © 2021 LittleCherryBlossom26; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

All work and no play has George showing a stiff British manner. While the poor country child can show him how to dress down whether it be beach wear or a cards competitor.

I love that the young Dane is starting to truly accept that he has a family for support but I’m hoping that as he now sees this situation to be more enduring he will be more able to return the relationship as more that a guest.

Karl is doing amazing in an environment of different people, customs, and educations ; all while he is constrained by his language barriers. Likewise, Karl has mentioned getting family letters from siblings after their leaving the family nest, yet Karl has not yet found the confidence and understanding to send a letter to his family to establish some communications with them. Hopefully, the parents have survived the possible repercussions of Karl’s quick and secretive departure and that has not also blown back to affect the siblings possibly suspected of hiding Karl away.

@LittleCherryBlossom26, so many thoughts and threads dangle from Karl’s lack of language skills in this new tongue, but increasingly now the foster parents/family need to guide Karl to build a foundation of understanding of his travels, home, and family; at least as he last knew it…

Excellent transition chapter to Karl becoming more self aware of his new life, family, and relationships. I look forward to seeing his quickening acceptance and starting to build a new life and goals within this period of war and chaos; I’m sure his prior life and skills will also be more contributory in the trying times of rations and limited food supplies.

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I can understand the feelings Karl is having with being in a country he knows nothing about.  He does sense the fact that Mrs. Hopkins and Mr. Hopkins as well as Paul seem to be attempting to make him understand what is being said,(slightly).  George on the other hand has some other issues he is facing.  I am not sure yet where he is going to be as far as helping Karl understand what he is going through. 

I can imagine the thoughts going through Karls mind being pushed away by his father to a place he knows nothing about.  If I were to put myself in his place at that age and having done everything on the farm for the family.  What would I be doing if I was in Karls shoes?  This is taking place at a time when War was beginning and many other lives would be broken forever not just Karl's.  This has to be such a  terrible feeling of being pushed away by your father without much explaination.  This will be a time of learning new ways for Karl and as well as for Paul, George and  Mr. and Mrs Hopkins.  I think this family and Karl may become rather close before to far down the road.  Just a feeling I have. 

So far I am enjoying this story.  It is sad as well as interesting for everyone that has been presented so far.  George is still an unkown for me.  But I am sure that too will become apparent soon enough. 
Keep the story coming.  Thank you

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I have enjoyed nearly all the chapters so far. What a journey for Karl! From a small farm into a city. From a sheltered existence into the unknown. When will he think about writing home to his parents or his siblings? He has been lucky to land in such a nice, humane and helpful family....

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A good weekend at the seaside helps to momentarily forget about "the Huns". The pebbles on the  Brighton shore barely qualify as a 'beach'. Young men / teens stripping down and swimming 'starkers' in the sea would shock some beachgoers but that's okay.

George being annoyed / frustrated at being beaten at Whist? Icing on the cake and Karl gets to laugh for a change. 

Edited by Anton_Cloche
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