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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Live, Love, Lose - 16. Chapter 16

“Ladies, let me introduce you to Carl.”

As you may have guessed, Mrs. Hopkins was the one to say that.

They had both gone into the city centre during the following week, and not during the day, but in the evening.

He was greeted with warm "Hello’s", "Hi’s", and "Nice to meet you’s".

They met with seven women, who were probably some of Mrs. Hopkins’s friends. They were in some sort of building that looked like a shop, an empty workshop.

“So Carl, this is Ruth, Martha, Edith, Emily, Charlotte, Julia, and Mary.”

Karl examined each of their faces before he smiled at them.

“Nice to meet you all.”

The women were obviously really happy to meet him and were most likely like Mrs. Hopkins in terms of character and personality. Well if they weren’t, how could they really be good friends?

“Come on, let’s take a seat and get started. It will be better to discuss.”

They formed a circle as they were sitting; it was better to have a view of everyone. And it turned out that they were actually making blankets and clothing. He guessed they were doing this without expecting any money back for their work, and that it was just some kind of charity work to help the poor. Because unlike what he thought, it seemed that there were not only wealthy and upper-class people in London.

He could remember how he had already come to help her the same day when he had first met George. They had distributed food (quite a lot) to people who obviously needed it badly. That’s when he had learnt that Mrs. Hopkins actually had her own garden, which enabled her to grow her own vegetables. It wasn’t that big a garden. But it was enough to make good reserves of vegetables. And that’s what she was using her dining room for actually. She had turned it into a special room to stock everything she had in the best conditions as possible. And this way every week people could have fresh vegetables.

He thought that it was an excellent initiative. That’s why he was more than willing and really glad to help her.

“Don’t worry. It’s a bit difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes really easy!” One of Mrs. Hopkins’s friends chirped (he couldn’t put the name on her face though…), and he could perfectly picture Mrs. Hopkins saying it hadn’t her friend said it first.

He had never knitted even once in his life, had never learnt. He had already seen both his mother and sister do it, but that was all. They used the sheep’s wool to make woolen blankets and sell them, and also for their personal use. This was absolutely great because of their incredible warmth, especially during wintertime. But he had never helped with that because his mother considered it was a women’s work only.

And of course, he had never questioned this. Until that time.

His mother had always helped with all the rest of the work at the farm, and so had his sister before she left. But with this, the men couldn’t help. It seemed a little bit weird.

Anyway, he didn’t care whether it was a women’s work only. If he could help, he would keep doing it as long as it’d be necessary.

“Here, you see! You’re already starting to get it!”

“Of course, he is. He is a very fast learner.”

“Oh, I’m not surprised to hear it,” another woman chimed in.

“What makes you say so?” Again, another one did.

“Well, otherwise she wouldn’t have brought him here with her, would you have, Margaret?”

“Hadn’t he been, I still would’ve brought him here. He needs to get out of the house, but not only that. There’s something about him that makes you want not to leave him alone. He does need his privacy too though, I’m quite aware of it!”

She turned her head to look at him as she stopped right in the middle of knitting.

“Oh, by the way, I’m so sorry to talk about you as if you weren’t there. I really hope you don’t mind. There’s no bad intention about it, you know.”

Before he could even try to make out the different words, she spoke again.

“I am really glad that you’ve accepted to help me, and to help us. It really means so much to me. Paul, Robert, and George are too busy with their own work to help me, and I am quite aware that your situation is not exactly the best to be in the mood to help foreigners…but you are a very courageous youth.”

Without understanding perfectly everything she had just said, he knew what she meant. The tone of her voice, that look in her eyes. It was all too familiar to him by now. He could never be mistaken about it.

As he smiled the warmest smile he could manage, he told her:

“Du har allerede gjort så meget for mig.”

You’ve already done so much for me.

And yes, he had done it again, but he still didn’t feel that confident to make long sentences in English. Making a mistake wasn’t the problem. But if he really didn’t remember or know some of the words in English, he couldn’t make them up…

“Sorry…” he trailed off, but Mrs. Hopkins was quick to reassure him.

“It’s okay. I think I know why you’re doing this anyway.” A pause. “Besides, I really love it whenever you speak Danish.”

“Yes, this is such a nice language!”

“Much nicer than German.”

“Definitely.”

Karl smiled at her. He should have remembered it was never necessary to apologise to her.

He looked down and went back to knitting. The women chatted happily, while he was too focused on what he was doing to even listen to what they were saying, and try to figure it out.

“We spent a really nice weekend in Brighton,” were the only words that caught his attention at some point.

That weekend in Brighton. He really liked it. He already missed the sea. But they would probably have some other opportunities to go back there.

George had spent the whole Sunday not saying a word to him, not able to come to terms with losing all the games. The day had passed rather quickly. They had enjoyed the city again in the morning and left early in the afternoon, certainly not to go back home too late.

After quite a while, the women stopped working and served some tea and some small sandwiches. Karl was not unhappy to have a break. He needed to get used to doing this. He had managed to make a small patch at least. This was already better than nothing.

Mrs. Hopkins was obviously quite satisfied with the work he had done. So this was enough of a reward for him.

They left to get back to the house before it got too late.

“I have not told you before, but I had already helped in the war effort during the first world war. Thank God, Robert’s parents and my own were there to look after Paul.”

Karl just looked at her in silence, observing her facial features. He could understand more or less what she was talking about, but wouldn’t know what to reply. There were just some kinds of conversations which he wasn’t very good at. And war was amongst them. Yes, because that’s something he still wasn’t familiar with.

“I used to work in a munitions factory.”

Factory. That was a word he had never heard before. Neither had he heard ‘weapons’ for that matter.

“Since almost all the men were gone to France to fight, we had to replace them at work. And after that, women are still not considered equal to men. Even though we were granted the right to vote, most men still think we aren’t as capable as them. But we did as much as they did. Even when the work was particularly hard, we endured and held our heads high. We kept the industry going. If we hadn’t, the economic consequences would have been much worse than they were.”

He could sense the strong and intense emotion in her voice as she spoke. It sounded as though there was a tiny hint of pain in it that was hardly discernible, showing all the suffering she had gone through.

“For now this is only the beginning, but if this war drags on too, the toughest is to come sooner than what we think.”

It was clear that she was worried.

“If I have to work in a factory once again, then I am ready to do it again.”

Now it was determination.

“Fortunately, they did not send all the men to fight to their own deaths this time. They had the brains to exempt all of these who are needed for key industries. Thank God Paul did not have to go. He was lucky to be a part of them. Robert could not have stood it.”

Her words were followed by silence, not an awkward kind of silence, but rather the kind of silence that’s necessary before you can speak again.

“His son is everything to him.”

It seemed obvious that she was talking about things that were very personal. She didn’t have to though. But then maybe she just needed to talk to someone whom she knew wouldn’t judge or would keep their mouth shut about it, like a box full of secrets that would never be revealed.

“I can’t help thinking about how much your own parents must be worried about you. They can’t even know you are with us. You know, I have been thinking that perhaps you could try to write a letter to them. So that they can know at least that you are not homeless and doing well. I know the country is annexed, But the Nazis can’t be controlling all the mail Danish people receive.”

His parents…

“They must have better things to do,” she added. “Besides, I doubt that they can read, let alone understand Danish.”

Nazis. He had learnt what that word actually meant. Thanks to Paul.

“But if you will, we will see that more in detail tomorrow.”

So if he had understood well, she basically wanted him to write to his parents.

Of course, he would do that. The problem was that…well, he had never been taught how to write or to read. Since he had never had any kind of education at all. What would be the point in learning when you were destined for farm work for the rest of your life?

Counting was useful, but both of these weren’t.

He suspected his siblings had learnt by themselves in secret at some point, each in turn, even if they hadn’t been able to attend school before they finally decided to leave home for good. But they had never talked about that.

Being able to speak Danish well enough was already a good thing.

~

It was already dark by the time they got home.

After bidding goodnight to Mrs. Hopkins, Karl went directly to the room he was still sharing with George, despite the other’s reluctance to share it after that weekend. But Karl just shrugged it off, thinking it would eventually pass.

When he entered it, he found George sitting against the pillow that he had put against the headboard, his legs stretched on the whole bed, and his nose still in one of his books. He had brought a lot of books with him, and for him, they were just all the same.

One glance from him showed he acknowledged at least his presence.

“I heard that you were helping Margaret.” He didn’t look up as he said that.

Karl remained silent, standing near the bed.

George put the book down on his lap.

“If you really like to help, then you can come help at the university too.”

See. He knew it would happen. Too bad because he could have no longer so much fun now.

“The higher-ups still fear the Boche might launch a surprise aerial attack at any time. We’ve been waiting for it to happen for months now. But still nothing. So this can’t mean anything good.”

His tone was too neutral, solemn to discern any kind of emotion behind it, same with the look on his face. It almost looked like indifference.

“They’ve been trying to turn the university into some kind of giant bunker to avoid the maximum of casualties when it happens. They even thought about evacuating the students to another city. But what would be the point in it anyway? Here or elsewhere they will still bomb us. And they’re not stupid.”

He had taken his book back in his hands by the time he finished speaking.

Karl was still silent, trying to figure out everything.

“So, would you like to come and help us? It’s already complicated enough for us to juggle with studies and this.”

They met each other’s gaze for a few seconds only before Karl went to sit at the end of the bed.

The question was simple. And there was no need for him to hesitate.

“I’ll come.”

George looked at him as if he were trying to read what was on his mind, which was pretty understandable. It’s not as if it would be the first time if so.

“Sure? Because there’ll be no going back on your words.”

“I’m sure.”

He kept doing it.

“Tomorrow then?”

No hesitation either for that.

“Tomorrow.”

He still had the same look on his face, his gaze still fixed on him.

“Alright,” he said as he sat up all of a sudden. “But for now…”

He was up in a flash, put his book away, took something out of the drawer of the piece of furniture that had been put there recently, and went back quickly to sit on the bed, but not in the same position this time.

“Let’s play again. And we’ll see who’ll win this time.”

Of course, he couldn’t help smiling and didn’t want to stop.

“Keep smiling while you can, because you won’t be smiling for that long.”

And so they played again. They played several games like last time.

And the same thing happened again.

“Wipe that smug smile off your face!!!”

It was a very good thing he had offered to play again. He could have some more fun.

Hello everyone!

Nothing really exciting in this chapter, but the bad will come soon enough...

Don't hesitate to share your thoughts :)

Take care ❤️

Copyright © 2021 LittleCherryBlossom26; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Nothing really exciting in this chapter, but the bad will come soon enough..

well I was expecting something good to come up soon

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Poor George, it appears medicine is the correct field of study for him, as his luck… is NOT in the cards. 😝 Young Karl is not of book learning, but his brain is far from idled.

Karl is becoming more engaged in his own life with each choice he is making; though obviously needing help, support, and guidance, he is gaining confidence to make choices when presented.

Hopefully, Karl will soon start more intensive studies to gain reading and writing skills too. Ironically, he will become more literate with english language skills than was possible and expected in his native tongue.

As the family becomes more engaged to help Karl attempt family contact, one can only hope that Karl will still have reason to hope for his family’s survival; as the harsh environment they may be facing with the confluence of German Naval Forces, supply lines, and movement security can be unforgiving, especially in war.

Likewise, Karl is young, but rapidly approaching adulthood, …and the the age of service. Even as a foreigner, he is a defacto resident citizen of England. This in itself may present challenges too, as even if not on the national registry he will be open to scrutiny when young men of equal age are called into service unless specifically exempted with cause. I wish not but that Karl was just a little younger…

Edited by Philippe
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As true to most language learners, Karl's understanding of spoken English is far ahead of his speaking skills.  He is now using visual, auditory clues to combine with his expanding vocabulary to understand others when they are speaking.  As he gains skills in grammar and confidence is speaking he will quickly catch up and begin to learn how to write.  I look forward to his volunteer work at the university.  I think it will be a great learning experience for him in yet another environment where he will constantly be asked to do different types of work and tools he already knows.  This familiarity will help him expand his vocabulary and expose him to different forms of grammar as well as idioms and other collocational phrases.

Edited by raven1
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One thing I do when I read is look up landmarks and locations - Kings college is something else again. What a beautiful place.

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One thing I do when I read is look up landmarks and locations - Kings college is something else again. What a beautiful place.

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Not buying this. I doubt there was more than a few illiterate families in Denmark at the time.  Every farm family was an integral part of the nearest village and the nearest church.  Community is part of their culture. The country was highly literate in the 20th century and he would have been well versed in the Bible.

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