Jeremy’s War: Chapter 28 “A Misunderstanding “
Posted on March 30, 2008
He looked at her, longingly, yet frightened.
It was a strange sensation. He was both attracted, and repelled.
This was confusing him.
It was their third meeting at her house. Their third supper together. They seemed to have known one another for years now.
Aunt Agnes had tactfully retired an hour earlier, and the young pair were on their own, gazing into the fire, sipping wine, talking, and being silent. He had at first been shy to look at her. Now that he had overcome that, he could hardly take his eyes off her.
Different emotions came and went. Different memories. Different scenes. Mind games…
How he had hated that blasted cafe! That woman Mimi and her lesbian lovers! How he had wished he had never gone there! He was now so far removed from his squadron colleagues, that it hurt. He was lonely, confused, and unhappy. Youth rested on his shoulders as a burden, not a blessing.
He was aware he had been painfully formal. Apart from that scene in the forest… apart from that, he had found himself unable to touch her. He had taken his leave from her that first night, grateful beyond words, wanting to kiss her, but instead he had merely shaken her hand. How he had wanted to embrace her! Place his arms around her.
Kiss her. Bury his face in her hair! Hold her as tight as he could…
Why was he frightened? Why was he reluctant? It was as if he had to ‘let go’ of something that held him back.
Why? It was all very odd.
Powerful emotions coursed round inside his heart, occasionally bubbling momentarily to the surface. A tremor in his voice, a sigh, an involuntary movement.
Then the iron grip would descend again, the rigid self control, and his features would carefully remove all trace of the boiling cauldron beneath.
Genevieve too marveled at the intensity of her feelings. Maybe it was just a reaction, she told herself. The suddenness with which she had gone from six months of hating men, to feeling desperately sorry for one particular man. Maybe she was confusing compassion with love? She looked at him, staring into the fire.
Was that true? Women were different from men. It was hard for a woman to distinguish between compassion and love.
Men were different. Harder. Less sensitive.
More like animals…
The momentary bitterness of her thoughts surprised her, and she tried to repress the memories of that horrible back street stable as quickly as possible. That vile man… would she ever be able to forget his fingers pawing her like some piece of cold chicken?
She studied Jeremy’s face. Was he an animal? Was he capable of such sexual bestiality? Such wanton cruelty?
Surely not. Surely not.
He sensed her gaze, and turned his face to her. Her heart skipped a beat. That face… it was a handsome face, yet also tragic. The eyes were kind, yet also… tired? Old?
Vacant? What was it that was so expressive about his face? That moved her so much? He smiled, a fleeting quick, passing smile. It was there, and then it was gone.
There was something… self deprecating about his smile.
As if he was apologizing for something. The way the corners of his mouth turned down quickly. What was he apologizing for? His shyness? His manhood? No, that was ridiculous.
What then? Inadequacy?
What a strange, sad, hurt, lost little boy she had found and brought home!
Jeremy’s thoughts were on a different track, that somehow, nonetheless, kept leading back to his feelings for Genevieve.
Why do they all treat me as if I’m a bloody queer? Just because I didn’t want to lose my virginity to a painted whore!
The intensity of the flash of anger gripped him. He repressed it quickly.
Genevieve moved, and he turned to look at her. Her deep green eyes met his, and this time neither turned their gaze away.
“I’m sorry “, he found himself mumbling.
“I’m not very exciting company… ”
She made a small movement of her head, as if to signify:
“Oh yes you are. ”
Again that voice that hardly seemed to belong to him.
“I’ve told you about the war, Genevieve. You know about the killing, and the way I feel about it. ”
She nodded, inviting him to go on.
“What I haven’t told you about, is… the way I feel about… ”
He faltered, regretting his sally into the treacherous wastelands.
She spoke quietly: “Tes femmes? How do you say? Your girl friends? ”
He started, and she smiled. He was confused, and she laughed quietly.
“Zjer-ami, you cochon! Have we not discussed everything except? Am I a child? ”
She laughed again, but there was no unkindness there. He recognized that fact, grinned sheepishly, and nodded.
“You’re ahead of me, Genevieve. ”
He gazed into the flames, and chuckled to himself.
“Again… “, he added, as an afterthought.
Then he drew a deep breath, and plunged in quickly, before he could worry about it any more.
An hour later, he had covered Emmy, her letter informing him that she was courting the shadowy Robert (to which he had replied so formally), his virginity, and the experience at the bar in town. His interest in religion, but the difficulty of combining the experiences of war with a loving God. He had even covered the squadron’s suspicion of his homosexuality.
Genevieve had made it all easy. She had listened patiently, without interrupting. What ever views she had formed herself, she spoke nothing of them. Occasionally, she had spoken his thoughts, when he had been in danger of sinking into embarrassed silence. It had all been very easy. Now that it was all out, he felt better, although he was also astonished how relieved he felt. It had all been weighing him down. It was good to have ventilated his suppressed emotions. They had chuckled a few times as well. As when he had skirted around his virginity for a while…
He had approached it by expressing that the view of the squadron appeared to be that if you hadn’t yet had a woman, then there was something wrong with you. Then he had lapsed into silence.
“What is wrong with a man being a virgin? “, Genevieve had asked. She pronounced it ‘vir-zjeen’.
“Nothing “, he had answered. It had been obvious that she agreed. From there it had been only a small step to announce that he wanted a ‘special relationship’, not just a passing… passing…
“Fuck? “, she had inquired brightly, her eyes sparkling mischievously, her head tilted questioningly to one side.
He had looked shocked, then laughed. She had joined in the laughter.
He had been intensely curious as to her views on the subject, but for now, she was keeping those to herself.
He admired her. Very self possessed, she was obviously a woman of the world. She was a good listener. What a blessed relief! It was surprising how few questions she had asked. One stuck in his mind, although he didn’t know why. She had inquired what the name had been of the bar he had visited so unhappily with his squadron mates.
He had been unable to recollect it.
“There’s a picture of a crazy red bird hanging over the door “, was all he could remember. She had nodded, but given nothing away.
He looked at her with new found trust and confidence. He had opened his heart, and the treasures of sensitive yearnings had come tumbling out. She had not mocked, ridiculed, or trodden on his riches. One disapproving look from her, one sarcastic rise of an eyebrow, one hint of disdain, one slight curl of a mouth corner perhaps, and their relationship would have been finished there and then. He realized he had been sitting on the edge of his chair. Tension? He slid back, relaxed, and felt his shoulder blades comfortably nestling against the velvet back. A blessed relief indeed to be able to offload!
The picture of Emmy floated by. Emmy… This was the way they had talked, for hours on end. Had he found a new friend? Yes, if she was also willing to open up.
A slight anxiety sneaked in the door…
It would not do if she only listened, and didn’t reciprocate. His pride raised its head. He was not a mental patient! He looked at her, and watched what he had perceived to be a warm, kind, soft heart reveal itself as a composed, cool, tight lipped exterior.
He started to regret being so open.
No! He reminded himself. His mind was playing tricks. This was the woman who had held him tight in the forest, who had wept with him.
He gazed into the fire, frowning to himself, wondering if he had gone too far. Suddenly, fearfully, wishing he had not rushed along head first. Maybe he should have taken it more slowly. This was only their third meeting together at her house…
Jeremy, if only he had known it, wholly misread the struggle going on inside Genevieve, just below the surface. Her thoughts were in a whirl.
Now I understand. A funny red bird over the door…!
It had to be. The same blasted place. The same damn hell hole. He had been there. She had tried to suppress the experience, and listen to him. He was interesting. She liked him. Eventually he had come to a stop, and had sat there, gazing into the fire. She pondered on what he had said. It all made sense. She thought of her serious lover, Henri. He was harmless. Not a bad man at all. Immature, frightfully so, very romantic, very sentimental, but a bit like a wet blanket. She had felt safe with him.
She looked at Jeremy, staring into the fire, frowning.
Why was he frowning? He had looked quite relaxed a minute before? She felt puzzled, went to say something, and decided against it.
The silence struggled on.
Her mind switched back to the dimly lit stables, and she shuddered. The hands started pawing her again. She tried to push the memory away. It went, and came back, relentlessly. She pushed it away. A minute later, the hands had reached her breasts, and were playing with her nipples. Despite her fear and terror, she had felt her nipples growing hard. This had pleased her tormentor, who had played with them all the more, gloatingly.
He had whispered obscenities, and licked her ear. She had tried to struggle but he had been too strong…
Damn the memory! She had to push it away!
She discovered her bottom lip was trembling slightly.
Oh that blasted nightmare!
The coals! She would rake over the coals, and busy herself with the fire!
The awkward silence had extended itself into a burning wasteland, and then there was a movement beside him. The woman in whom he had confided everything slid into his field of vision, and started raking the coals with an excess of energy. He started at the pallor of her face. She was angry! Angry?
In a flash, realization poured over him like a freezing cold water fall. He had been too forward! He had been too intimate! He had prattled on like a fool, and she had been merely polite! He had revealed his inner core to an unwilling observer! Idiot!
Pride leaped up, pointing an accusing finger: “I told you so! Never, ever, talk so openly! Now, go! Go, now! Leave with dignity. ”
He felt sick. It was all a big mistake.
She was obviously not the girl for him. If she couldn’t handle his inner feelings… what was the point.
Pride marched closer, waving a furious finger in his face. “If she can’t handle your inner feelings, then she is not WORTHY of you! Leave, with dignity, for God’s sake! Do it NOW! ”
The room seemed to sway, and part of him wanted to cry out.
Pride stepped on any chance of that, and Anger took the place of tears. How dare she lead him on!
Oh, damn and blast anyway!
The fingers had temporarily finished playing with her breasts. The beast had tied her hands firmly behind her back, ripped off her remaining clothes, and she knew she was naked now. Her mind was trying to fend off the destruction. It was a dream. A horrible dream.
The fingers reached her navel, played there for a while, and marched on to her pubic hair. She wanted desperately to scream and scream, but she couldn’t. Something…
something in her mouth.
Push it away! It was all in the past! It was buried! Gone, forever!
A picture of the sign of the ‘Red Canary’ floated past.
Another picture of the teeming mass of bawdy humanity inside.
Go away! Go AWAY!
She had raked the fire into a roaring inferno now, quite unnecessary at this late hour. She was aware of his silhouette seated beside her. He would notice soon!
Relax! Relax! It is nothing to do with him!
Idiot! Fool! Imbecile! He wanted to run. Get up, grab his coat, and run. Dive on the motorcycle, and roar back to the safety of the airfield. How to make the retreat? He tried to compose himself, and a surge of will power over compensated the other way.
He became cold, aloof, lofty. If his feelings were not masculine enough for her…
The fingers had reached and entered her vagina, and in spite of herself, she felt herself lubricating. Her stomach muscles contracted, and primordial hormones and reactions flowed through her body. She was as powerless to stop them as she was helpless in the beast’s clutches.
She writhed hopelessly, and heard his voice only distantly. Felt his tongue playing over her face and breasts only remotely. Even when he bit her nipples, she felt the pain only dully. But the entry of his penis she felt with an electric shock of realization.
He was entering her body! He was defiling her with his penis! He…
She redoubled her feverish struggling, which delighted him. He laughed out loud, saliva trickling down his chin, and dropping onto her throat. It was no use…
She felt the rhythmic thrusting of his penis inside her, heard his breathing break into a series of gasps. The last gap was the the most agonizing, he stiffened strangely, and then the gasp broke off into a contented moan… She felt a tidal wave rush through her, and terror, loathing, horror and disgust merged with an age old sexual submission…
This was crazy! She had to stop these thoughts! Jeremy was sitting there beside her! He would notice!
She put aside the poker, and turned to face him. A certain trembling inside her seemed to want to erupt to the surface. She suppressed it, and tried to smile.
It was a feeble effort. Then she saw his face…
Hard. His face had gone hard. Why? What had she done?
What had she said? Could he read her thoughts? Did he know about her? Had he heard stories from the others at the airfield? Did he think she was cheap?
“Zjerami? ” Her voice contained a question. She was thoroughly confused now. The inner trembling arrived at the surface. Her bottom lip succumbed, followed by her shoulders. She was frightened and bewildered.
He completely misread the symptoms. He thought she was angry with him. He retaliated with anger towards her.
He stood up, briskly, and picked up his coat. The gesture was unmistakable.
“Thank you for a pleasant evening, mademoiselle! ”
She eyed him, her mind numb, her facade struggling to maintain dignity. He saw only the dignity. He marched to the door. She didn’t know what to say. He turned round, looked at her – he would never see her again – and saluted, briskly, formally, and absurdly. Pride. He was a man. He might have feelings, but he was a man. His movements implied a curt ‘Thank you, mademoiselle. Sorry for bothering you. It won’t happen again’. With that, he exited. A moment later he was out in the darkness, groping his way towards his motorbike.
He kicked the starter with as much violence as he could.
The large single piston misfired once, then caught steadily. She threw herself at the door, put her hand on the handle, and froze. What could she say? What was happening?
The seconds ticked away. She turned and leaned her back up against the door. Sounds of gravel being disturbed.
The motorcycle accelerated, and the single beat of the Velocette started down the drive. She flinched as if struck with a whip. The machine passed through the gate, and accelerated on the open road. Soon the noise started to die in the distance. She listened in horror, rigidly.
The sound died away slowly. Then it was gone. Silent tears flowed down her cheeks, and she slid slowly down the door onto the floor. There she remained, immobile, crying silently, for a long time…
* * *
“Gentlemen, we have to do something about this situation. ” The speaker was a thoughtful man, and as he looked around the circle of senior RFC officers, he felt they were on his side. He could ask for ideas, as opposed to ordering.
“Basically, we’re taking a jolly bad licking. Many of our pilots are lasting mere days. A pilot is now a veteran if he survives a few weeks. I need new ideas, and fast.
We have more aircraft than the Hun, yet he blasts us out of the sky at will. I want you all to come up with your best proposals for a new strategy. Go home, give it some thought, and let me know. Gentlemen, I’m asking for your input! ”
There was a subdued murmur of approval. One or two officers shrugged their shoulders. One or two others had a strange gleam in their eyes. A positive light of determination.
One of these men was Major Baxter, of forty-five squadron, Aix-en-Chapelle…