Wilhelm was enjoying his Sunday off. He had just spent two hours in the stables and now was going to the church for morning services. The path led him beside a small orchard of crabapples.
“Ow! Damnation!” The sound of ripped cloth accompanied the oath.
Wilhelm stopped and peered up into the tree. “Pettigrew?”
“Bloody hell, keep your voice down, Willy, or Somersby will find us.” Another sound of ripping and then the boughs danced.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m stealing apples.”
“You shouldn’t do that. They belong to the Reverend.”
“That’s why it’s called stealing.” The teen stuck his head out and grinned. “Come up and help me.”
“Willy, I need your help. My sleeve’s caught on a branch.”
“Oh.” Wilhelm climbed over the stone fence and reached for a low branch. “Quiet! Someone’s coming!”
“Quick! Get up here!”
The boy scrambled up and joined his friend.
The blonde hair and pink dress of their tag-a-long appeared as she climbed over the wall. “I see you.”
“Go away, Gertrude,” Pettigrew hissed.
“I’m not! I want to steal apples, too.”
“They are crabapples, Trudy. Very bitter. Sour.” Wilhelm tried to dissuade her.
“They are sweet at the top of the tree.” She began to climb.
“No, Gertrude, you’ll fall and get hurt. The branches are thin up there!”
The German reached for her in response to the panic in Pettigrew’s voice.
“I can do it. I’m light.” She passed by the boys and reached out for the bright red fruit.
Distracted by Gertrude, the boys had forgotten to watch out for the Reverend. His voice boomed up at them, “I know you’re up there. Come down at once!”
The three children obeyed.
“Pettigrew! And Willy! Not you, too, Gertrude!” He stood with his hands on his hips towering over them. “Just what did you think you were doing?”
Gertrude grinned, “We were stealing your apples!”
“Stealing?” He roared, “Thou shall not steal!”
Wilhelm stepped forward, sheltering the other two behind him. “That’s in the Bible, sir.”
“Of course it’s in the Bible!”
“Pettigrew taught me to read the Bible. Well, some of it. And I read that part out loud last night.”
“You should have taken it to heart, boy.”
“Willy wasn’t stealing, Reverend. He was only helping me get my shirt unstuck.”
Wilhelm pointed to Pettigrew’s shoulder.
“You’re bleeding.” The Reverend’s face clouded with concern.
“Are you going to die?” Gertrude grabbed his hand. “Are you going to die like our momma?”
“Be silent, Trudy,” Willy scolded. “Of course he is not going to die.”
“Promise? Promise me, Willy?”
“Gertrude, enough.” To the boys, the Reverend stated, “I need two altar boys this morning. We’ll clean your wound and bandage you up before putting on your robes.”
Pettigrew opened his mouth to protest but was overrun by Willy’s excitement, “I can be an altar boy? Wirklich? You’ll let me march down the aisle and light the candles?”
“And we’ll get to wear robes,” Pettigrew supported Willy’s enthusiasm.
“I want to be an altar boy, too!”
“You can’t be an altar boy,” Willy argued. “You’re a girl.”
“Girls should get to be altar boys,” she insisted as they all walked up to the church.
“Heaven forbid,” Somersby laughed. “Next you’ll be telling me you want to be a priest.”
“You could be a nun,” Willy suggested.
“We’re not Catholic,” Pettigrew corrected him.
“Well, you could sing in the choir, then.”
She liked that idea so much, she serenaded them into the church.
“How is the headmaster?” Luther and Karl stood as Delamair settled their coffee tray.
“He’s over the worst. We’re sending him to his brother’s next week, once he can travel.”
“Next week?” Karl’s voice deepened.
“The doctor has a car; he’ll be able to come Friday morning and transport him and help him settle in.”
“You’re not going?” Luther asked.
“I’m needed here. The doctor will be staying with him at the manor.”
“Oh,” Luther didn’t hide his disgust. Karl looked questioningly between the two. She was pale, Luther was red-faced. With a sudden clarity, Karl despised the headmaster.
Luther took a cup from her. “So, you will be very busy this week. Don’t forget to find a refuge for yourself. You and the Old Man used to sit out in the garden. Do you still visit it?”
She glanced at Karl and replied, “Yes. It’s my second favorite place.”
His eyes twinkled.
They sat together in the garden and talked long into the night, but they discussed nothing of a personal nature. They bantered jokes and debated politics, brushed on religion. He walked her to the base of the stairs and took her hand in both of his. He drew it to his mouth and kissed it. He turned it over and pressed his lips into her palm.
He whispered, “Tomorrow night?”
He kissed her hand again and watched her ascend the stairs.
The next night, he brought a bottle of wine and two glasses and they discussed Wagner and Da Vince; impressionists versus romantics. She had never been to Paris, so he described the wonders of the Louvre.
The third night, she brought a basket of blackberries she’d gathered that morning. They took turns feeding each other until he could bare it no longer. He began licking her fingers, nibbling them as she laughed. He kissed her then, while she was still laughing and released her before his passion grew too intense.
He stood and clicked his heels. “Until tomorrow night, my Vor.” It took all his will power, but he left her still sitting on the bench.
She was late the next night and found him pacing.
“I didn’t think you were coming.”
“I was packing for Thomas but he doesn’t understand why he has to go. He kept taking his clothes out of the case. I finally got him settled.”
“Why do you have separate beds?”
She stood before him and stared up at the sky.
“Delamair,” he stepped closer. “Does he make love to you?”
“No,” she whispered.
“Never?” He leaned in.
“How can you bear it? To never be touched. To never know that special bond between man and wife?”
“You knew it once. Your child-“
She stepped back as if he had slapped her.
“I think your husband is either a pervert or a fool. What kind of husband is he to ignore your needs?”
“What kind of husband are you, to want to make love to me?”
It was he who felt slapped.
“Good night, Colonel.”
He continued pacing after she walked away.
The Island Remains
© Evelyn Rainey
Whiskey Creek Publishing
ISBN tba June 2014