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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 - 18. Chapter 18

“Morning, Margaret.”

“Good morning, George.”

Another week, another day, another morning.

“Have I received any mail?”

“No, not this morning, dear.”

George was visibly upset because of the negative answer. He let out a loud sigh, earning him a sympathetic look from Mrs. Hopkins.

“He should have already written to me.”

Karl didn’t fail to notice how he grew more and more preoccupied as the days passed. He was too worried to even realise that Karl noticed it.

“Don’t worry about it. He most likely has not had enough time to write another letter yet. He must have been so busy that he couldn’t when he should have. But I’m sure he’ll write as soon as he can. That’s just how war is. It makes you delay, delay, delay. And sometimes all the wait can become quickly unbearable. But I’m sure your friend is alright.”

There was this motherly, reassuring tone in her voice that his mother should have been the one to use. She should have been with him to speak these soft words to him.

He could hear another sigh, but quieter this time.

“I hope so. I really do.”

“Trust me. The missing of news does not necessarily mean that something bad happened.”

Her words were followed by silence. And he had the look Karl could notice from time to time in his brown eyes. A look that said that he wasn’t convinced.

“Most of the time it does.”

Karl could see in her eyes her will to help, but what she had been saying was probably not enough to reassure him.

“As long as it cannot be confirmed, you should not be thinking about it. This is the worst thing you can do.”

It still didn’t seem to be enough.

“And how can you not think about it?”

Mrs. Hopkins didn’t quite seem to have the answer to his question.

“You have to focus on something else, think about it as if it were the only thing that really mattered, and when I say ‘focus’, I mean focus really hard.” There was a pause that was appropriate with her solemn words. “That’s the only way.”

Her words were followed by another moment of silence that didn’t seem to ease the unspoken tension.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do for months now.”

She gave him a small, but confident smile.

“Then just keep doing it. And don’t forget that you always have an experienced ear to talk to if you need it.”

He most likely forced himself to smile back, his worry obviously still getting the best of him.

“Thanks.”

Her smile grew bigger.

“Look, here,” she said as she got closer to the kitchen counter. “I prepared you some small snack that you will be able to eat on your way to university.”

This smile looked much more genuine.

“Double thanks. You’re really the best, Margaret.”

This time, she showed her teeth as she was grinning.

“There, that’s the George I like. That we all like, I should say,” she said as she pinched his cheek.

“See you tonight,” he said before leaving the kitchen.

“See you. Have a good day!”

“You too!” He shouted most likely from the hall.

There was silence again, but it wasn’t too long before it was broken anyway.

“Thank God you have no one close to you who is fighting in this war.”

He could hear the small hint of sadness and despair in her voice as she mentioned the word war.

He gave her a small smile because he was realising this particular word was worrying him more and more as time passed. It seemed that it was everywhere. Even when it wasn’t said out loud. Or maybe he was simply exaggerating a bit too much. It’s not as if England had been invaded like his own country was… But then it wouldn’t be war any more, would it?

He was quick to finish his breakfast and to wash his own dishes before he bid goodbye to Mrs. Hopkins and headed outside. As soon as he opened the door, he saw Paul.

“Hey. You don’t wear a watch, but you’re always right on time, that’s quite impressive.”

Karl smirked at him.

“Shall we go?”

“Don’t you want to say hello to your mother first?”

“Oh, no need to, I’ll see her tonight.”

Karl nodded and they walked away from the house.

He had been coming more often and often at Paul’s workplace lately, almost every day. Almost because every day may have been a bit too much. Sometimes, Paul even happened to work on weekends he realized a little while ago. He went along really well with all the men and really liked being there. They had already adopted him, he thought he could say, and according to Paul, when he wasn’t there they would even ask every time: “Carl isn’t with you today?”

Time flew by way too quickly every time. It was already time for break before he knew it. This was a good opportunity to chat, crack jokes, and laugh - Obviously- a sacred time during which war didn’t matter any longer.

Even if he couldn’t understand everything that they said, it didn’t prevent him from sharing their laughs. Their good humour was catching.

He was thankful Paul wasn’t forced to go to war like George’s best friend. Really, really thankful.

Speaking of George, it was a sheer mystery to him why he wasn’t at war like him. The question had been puzzling him for a little while now, but only did he think about asking Paul that day, as they were chilling out after work, far from the house. Well by that he meant not completely at the opposite of the city, but far enough to have to have one good hour walk. Or less if they walked faster than the average pace. They were sitting down on top of some London building from where they had a rather nice view. And they were in the northern part of the city, a part he had already seen when he first arrived.

“Paul?”

The sun was near setting. They had left work a bit late that evening, for they were busy with so much work.

“Yes?”

They met each other’s gaze.

“Why…George…why isn’t he…at war?”

It seemed that Paul hadn’t expected him to ask this question, or maybe it was just his own perception that was wrong. He could never be sure. No matter how good he thought he had got to read people’s body language ever since he’d been staying with the Hopkins family.

“He can’t see a thing without his glasses.”

Glasses… That word didn’t ring a bell. But shouldn’t he remember it if he had heard it before? Well, he had assimilated so many words already that maybe his brain was just omitting it temporarily.?

“Glasses. You know, the thing you wear on your face when your sight needs to be corrected,” he circled his eyes with his index fingers to help.

And instantly it clicked in his mind.

How did he know the word? That’s very simple. (Yes, because you probably wouldn’t expect a farm boy that came from a place about which most likely nobody in London had ever heard to know what glasses were).

His father had once told him during his childhood that his grand-uncle had sight problems. He couldn’t see right anything that was near him. But his father had told him that they couldn’t afford glasses to make him see right. So he had had to manage to work without their help. Which he had managed to do somehow, but he couldn’t witness it with his own eyes.

Karl nodded to show he had understood.

“How do you say it in Danish?”

“Briller.”

Paul tried to repeat it as well as Karl pronounced it, but it was pretty hard to imitate a foreign accent when you didn’t know the language. There was something nice in the English accent though. It sounded smoother compared to Danish.

“I’m not sure it’ll be much use to me if I ever go to Denmark.”

Karl smirked. With the tone he used and the look in his eyes, he could tell that this was a form of teasing.

“No,” he said as he looked away from Paul, the same smirk still on his face.

As he glanced at him, he could see him smirk too.

There were hardly ten seconds of silence after that.

“Back to George, he could have never gone to fight. Imagine with a bomb attack or just one wrong move…anything could have easily happened to his glasses, and without them, it would have been worse than if he had been wounded…even if he had volunteered, no one would have ever accepted him into the army with so bad an eyesight.”

Karl didn’t say a thing as he was staring down at the ground. The silence lasted for a few moments.

“It’s a bit similar to Kipling’s son, except that even he didn’t have so bad an eyesight. Do you know Kipling?” He asked as he turned his head to look at Karl.

Karl shook his head no.

“Rudyard Kipling. He was an English writer. My father admired his writing style, still does, but he loathed him for being pro-war.”

He figured out the author part, but the words admired and loathed prevented him from understanding the opinion of Paul’s father about him.

“Because you’re a good writer doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a good person. And even the concept of ‘good person’ is actually hard to define in itself.”

Karl kept looking down, replaying the words in his mind. He thought he had just figured out what Paul had said about his father.

“The people who consider themselves as good think that what they do is good when objectively it isn’t necessarily that good, and the same goes with the people that are considered bad by good people. They think what they do is the right thing to do. But people are biased most of the time.”

What could Karl have replied to that?

He honestly had no idea.

“You know what I think? I think there is no such thing as right or wrong properly speaking. I think it’s just all a matter of perspective.”

Perspektiv…

“We’re just all human beings, with our flaws and quirks. No one is better than another one. Fuck the Nazis with the idea of the perfect race. There is no such thing as perfect in human beings.”

The colours of the sunset drew a beautiful contrast with Paul’s solemn tone.

Karl found this idea of a “perfect race” a bit confusing. He had never been told about any of this, so obviously, it was time he started questioning the world around him. He wasn’t sure whether it would be really useful. But his curiosity was getting the best of him.

He probably still had plenty of time to figure everything out anyway.

 

***

“Carl, I don’t mean to insist, let alone pressure you in any way. But you know about the letter, are you sure you really don’t want to write to your family?” She asked him as she put down a cup of tea in front of him.

They were having a small break in the middle of the morning.

Oh yes, right. The letter. It had slipped out of his mind until now. He had tried to decline as politely as possible when she had first wanted him to do it, but if she really kept on insisting, what could he really do?

Normally, she wasn’t supposed to know that he had never been sent to school, unless she had figured it out, but it didn’t seem to be the case. And for some unknown reason that he himself didn’t fully understand, he didn’t really want her to know. Yes, these people were from a much higher social background than him, but he wasn’t really ashamed of his. He had been taught not to be.

“It won’t take that long. Look, here are some paper and ink.”

She may have been really sweet, but she definitely wanted him to write.

“Don’t be afraid. Nothing can happen to you here.”

As usual, her tone was reassuring, warm, soothing.

He stared at the white paper as if it suddenly were the most interesting thing in the world, not knowing what to do now. He guessed words wouldn’t be enough to convince her. So he just kept staring at it for a long moment until Margaret spoke again. And he didn’t even spare her one single glance.

“Carl…” she seemed to finally figure it out. He did glance at her, as a form of acknowledgment. “You can write, can’t you?” She sounded utterly distressed as she said that, a bit shocked too.

He didn’t need to answer anything. He was sure the look he gave her was enough as such.

“You have never been to school…?”

He gave her the exact same look again.

“Your parents have never taught you, have they?”

“…”

Okay, now the silence between every question was becoming kind of a bit awkward…

He looked down at his hands that were on his lap. He heard the sound of a chair moving, light footsteps, and soon the light pressure of a hand on his shoulder. He watched Margaret take a seat beside him from the corner of his eye.

“That’s fine if you don’t know how to read or how to write. You should not be ashamed of it.”

Karl looked at her. There was still that softness in her eyes. Of course, she wouldn’t judge him. How could she judge anyone with such faith in humanity?

“I am sorry…I did not mean to make you feel uncomfortable, let alone ashamed of yourself and your family.” The grip on his shoulder tightened a bit more.

He didn’t say a word, didn’t think it was necessary.

“You know, I can teach you to read and write in English. Even if I cannot do it for Danish, it will already be quite an achievement. Learning to read and write in one’s mother tongue is already a hard challenge, so if you succeed in doing this for English, this will be much greater. I’m sure your family will be very proud of you.”

“P…pwwaoud…”

“Yes, proud,” she repeated with a bright grin.

He just blinked to show he didn’t get it.

“You know, it means your parents will be happy for you, happy to know that their son managed such a great achievement.”

Happy, sad. He knew the difference and what both meant in English.

But he doubted his parents would be proud of him for such a thing. Anything that wasn’t practical to make a living wasn’t needed. His siblings probably would though.

“They don’t speak English.”

It was blunt, maybe a little bit too much, but it was the truth. It would be pointless for him to learn to read and write in a language that wasn’t his own. Learning to speak it was already quite enough for him.

“It does not matter. Even if you cannot write to them, you will do it for yourself, just to say: ‘I know I can do it and I will do it.’”

“…”

“Just because you come from a background with no basic knowledge does not mean that you cannot educate yourself. It is your right, and of course, it is your choice. So I will teach you only if you want me to. Even though I think you should do it.”

What did he have to lose anyway if he tried to learn? Nothing. It wouldn’t make him any less capable as regards farm work skills. So he might as well give it a try to see where this would go.

He was curious to see how this worked.

Hello!

Thank you for all of your comments :) They mean the world to me ❤️

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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I am surprised there wasn't universal education, especially for boys in Denmark pre war. 

For Karl being able to read/ write in your second language but not your first would be unusual!

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Unfortunately this is still not an unusual situation in much of the world.  There are many illiterate people and some who have a difficult time reading and writing in their own language.  I have noticed a big improvement in Karl's skills.  He is putting short sentences together to ask questions and even recognises humour in English.  His desire to better know the world and what is happening is encouraging.  He now has motivation to more quickly learn.  Good chapter.  I like seeing more emotions in the characters.

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