Gwen Jumped, her fingers hit the keys on her typewriter in shock. No sooner had she typed the words did a clap of thunder shake her small cottage. Luckily she had plenty of candles and lanterns. Another boom echoed across the island, ricocheting of the sides of the cliffs, nearly deafening her in the process. Quickly she stood and hurried up the stairs and into the tower. The light was still lit. It swung in circles and pierced the darkness, alerting ay ships to the danger of rocks ahead.
She watched as lighting streaked across the sky and rain splattered against the glass. She wrapped her arms around herself, wishing, not for the first time, that there was someone else with her on the empty island, besides the milk goat. It had been her father who had ordered that she stay on the island during the war. His reasoning was that she would be safer there than on land. On the other hand Thomas Perry had always been a little . . . odd. She'd been there for two years, since May fourteenth, 1940. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, sending the US into waves of fury. Captain Perry had not taken no for an answer, going so far as to send three uniformed officers to deliver her to the lighthouse and stay there with her until they were called off to duty. They left two weeks later.
Ever since then she had been alone at the lighthouse, working it by herself. Luckily the three uniforms had known what to teach her and taught her how to work and keep the lighthouse up and running. Storms were always the worst. Every time the light hit the shore Gwen could see giant waves crash against the protruding rocks. The lighting seemed to freeze the rain and make it fall slower than was possible. Gwen shivered again and wished that she had a husband, someone to hold her during these frightening storms, to comfort her and be with her, but those things were impossible. The only men that she ever saw were the uniformed officers on the mainland, and even then they were rare.
She knew nothing of the war except what her father told her in his letters which were scarce. She had no electricity and no radio. She was cut off and when she went to the mainland every two weeks she heard only snatches from women and children on the streets.
With a shiver she ran a hand through her ear-length curly hair and turned to back down the stairs. Just as she was latching the door to the light room there was an especially loud crash and then something that sounded very much like an explosion. Gwen screamed and ran down the stairs, pausing only to grab a blanket, some candles, and her typewriter. She ran down int the basement and waited for the attacks to pass. She remembered thinking, before she went to sleep, how odd it was that she didn't hear any airplanes.
Gwen woke to find the blanket she had grabbed wrapped tightly around her and still she was cold. She sat still in the dark, trying to remember where she had set the matches in her hurry. She finally found them and lit the lamp, glad to have light at last. She waited for another hour, straining to hear if there were any planes or any more explosions. She didn't hear any.
Slowly she got up and climbed up the stairs, into the kitchen. The sun was out, there were no clouds. The peace after the storm. She wrapped her sweater tighter around her frail shoulders and pushed open the front door. The yard was strewn with debris; mostly wood and leaves. A light breeze blew the skirt of Gwen's dress against her legs as she walked around the small island, inspecting it for damage. Daisy, the goat, was safe and sound, munching on some green grass, although her shelter would need some minor repairs.
It was when she got to the western side of the island that she first saw the ship. It was a small naval ship, but hard to distinguish. It had been smashed to pieces against the chain of rock islands, hardly fixable. With a gasp Gwen threw herself down the rock stairs that led to her beach. The wreckage of the ship had been washed ashore, mostly wood from crates. There were no people in sight. Gwen wandered closer to the water's edge and closer to the tide pools near the crashing waves. She was still barefoot and, as she walked across the rocks, she prayed to God that she wouldn't fall in. A fall on those rocks would injure her pretty badly.
She was climbing over a particularly tough spot when she caught a glimpse of some thing blueish. She got down of the rocks, her feet touching cold water, and walked toward the strange thing. She nearly fainted when she saw it, but instead she screamed. Lying before her was a man. An honest to God man. He had blond hair and he looked rather tall. Very handsome, in Gwen's opinion.
Quickly she knelt down next to him and picked up his wrist, feeling for a pulse. Suddenly the man jerked away, grabbing her with one hand and pointed a small pistol at her head with the other. Gwen cried out. "Please, don't hurt me!"
His eyes narrowed in suspicion. "You are English." he said, calmly. He had an accent. A German accent.
Gwen nodded, tears burning in her eyes. He was a strong man, his left hand gripped her wrist like a vice. The gun pressed into her temple. "I'm not going to hurt you." she said. He tightened his grip and she whimpered as the gun was pressed harder against her skull.
"You are English. Why should I trust you?" he asked, glaring at her with the brightest blue eyes she had ever seen. "Your men kill our men and women and children. Why should i not return the favor?"
Gwen's eyes widened fearfully. "Don't. I swear. You can stay here. I'll never tell anyone--"
"Quiet," he snapped. "You talk too much," he grumbled. He removed the gun slowly. "I won't kill you today. I am injured and need help."
Gwen sighed in relief as the gun was pocketed. She slid her wrist out of his grasp and stood. "Are your legs broken?"
The man shook his head. "I do not think so. Bruised ribs." He hissed in pain as he stood up.
Gwen gulped. He was a tall man. She had to look up to meet his eyes. "The house is this way." she told him, moving away.
His hand on her writ again stopped her. He turned her around. "Stay next to me." he ordered sharply.
Gwen nodded and he released her wrist. "What happened?"
He looked at her, startled. "I do not know." he told her. Gwen looked at her feet. Her heart was pounding. She did not know if it was fear or because he had touched her. It had been a while since she had had a beau.
Gwen led him up the rocks, noting how he walked with a slight limp and winced in pain every time he leaned over. The yard would have to wait, as well as Daisy's shelter. Not that she had a choice. The man had a gun, after all. She pushed open the door, turning to look at him. He had drawn his pistol again and was looking at the house cautiously. Gwen smiled gently, she hoped. "There isn't anyone here. Just me." she told him. He raised one, almost invisible, eyebrow skeptically. "I swear it." she told him.
He nodded and Gwen led him into the Kitchen. She set a pot of tea on the stove to boil and motioned for him to have a seat. He did, resting the gun on the table top. "Please, put that away." she said, quietly. "I have no guns here. No one comes to check on me. I can assure you that the gun is not necessary."
He did not say anything. Nor did he put teh gun away. Gwen sighed. "I can draw you a warm bath. Lord knows you need one. I don't think I have any clothes that will fit you. There might be something in the guest room . . ." she said, more to herself than the man. She walked toward the door that led out into the main hall where the living room and bed rooms were situated. She heard his footsteps behind her and shivered. Who knew what he would do to her? There were all sorts of rumors about the cruelties of the German men. The Nazis. She cast a curious glance behind her and noted that he bore the signs of a Nazi. She shivered in fear.
She found a shirt and some trousers left over from one of the three uniforms. She tucked them under her arms and led him back into the kitchen. In the corner there was a curtain that could be drawn around the toilet and the bathing tub. She turned the water on warm, thankful for the plumbing. Then she started a fire to heat the freezing kitchen. The tub filled easily and Gwen drew the curtain around it, turning uneasily back to the Nazi.
His eyes, for the first time it seemed, really looked at her. They traced her form easily and once again Gwen realized what this man could do to her if he wished. She gulped and took a step back. "Do not worry. I will not touch you, you English filth."
Insulted she turned back to the tub and set a towel near the edge, ext to the clothes. She faced him again only to find that he was removing his clothes! His shirt and jacket were already on the floor. He was working on his pants. Gwen turned away, red flooding her cheeks, and waited until she heard him slide into the water. She went back to the stove and checked the water. She poured herself a cup of tea and sat down at the table to wait. Nearly an hour later she heard a few pained grunts of effort.
She stood and went cautiously to the screen. "Do you . . . "
"I need help." he muttered sharply. "Get in here, woman and make yourself useful."
Gwen averted her eyes as she entered. "No need to avert your eyes, Miss." Startled Gwen looked at him to find that he was not entirely naked. "Help me out."
Gwen's eyes couldn't leave his chest. The muscles there were firm and obvious. but more important was the swelling and the bruising. Gwen held out her hand and he gripped it, pulling himself up, nearly causing the both of them to fall to the floor. Gwen's front was now soaked. He looked down, sizing her up again. His eyes narrowed as he reached on hand up to touch a cut hear her eye.
Gwen jerked away, stumbling back a few steps. "I--"
"Quiet," he ordered again. He looked at the cut again, his fingers brushing away the blood. "I need sleep and bandages."
Gwen nodded. She didn't even know his name.
What a strange woman. He thought as he lay on the small bed. His feet hung off the edge. Beautiful, although she is not Aryan. Her curly hair looked softer than her creamy white skin.
He sighed and heard the sounds of a typewriter coming from the kitchen. He scrambled out of bed ignoring the pain that flooded through him and limped his way to the kitchen. What was he to do? He couldn't put a bullet in the back of her head just for using a typewriter . . . could he? He leaned heavily against the wooden counter top and watched as her fingers expertly struck the keys.
She sighed and rubbed the back of her neck, pushing her hair out of the way. Steffan caught a glimpse of pale flesh and the pink puckered lines of a scar. He stiffened, for some reason and bumped a pitcher by accident. It broke as it crashed into the floor. The woman screamed and turned around, noting the mess of glass at his feet, his bare feet.
She hurried to his side without a word and bent over, scooping the glass up with her bare hands and setting it on the counter. Once all the big pieces had been cleaned up she retrieved a broom from a small closet near the front door and swept the rest up into a noticeable pile. She set the broom against the counter and used a dustpan to scoop it up. She left it on the counter with the rest of the glass. "Are you hungry?"
Steffan shook his head and took a seat at the table, opposite the typewriter. The woman looked away for a moment and carried the tea pot back to the table, pouring both of them a cup. Steffan took a sip to be polite, but he'd never been one for tea, and jerked his face away from the cup in surprise. It wasn't tea after all. It was thick, dark, delicious kaffee. He took a few more sips. "Sugar?" he asked. She nodded and stood, going to one of the many cupboards and bringing a small bowl with sugar cubes back. He took three and dropped them into the cup, stirring it with a spoon.
The woman sat back down in front o her typewriter, but it seemed that she had lost her inspiration. Her thin eyebrows furrowed gently, whether in frustration or something else. She bit her pink lip and raised her eyes to meet his. "Are you a Nazi?" she asked.
Steffan jerked back in surprise. He nodded slowly. "I am,"
He saw her shudder in fear and almost, almost, felt sorry for her. She looked up again. "So you worked in the camps?"
"I did once," he told her, trying not to speak German at her. "At the beginning of the war."
"I am a Captain. I got transferred. My commander found that I was not . . . worthy enough to serve Herr Hitler in the camps." Steffan said bitterly. Her face changed, then, still fearful, but less so.
"I see," she said, not knowing whether she should ask more, or leave her captor be.
Instead of pressing the issue she turned to another subject. "I couldn't help but notice that your
. . . your ribs . . . They need to be bound." she finished quietly.
He shrugged. "I can live with the pain."
Gwen, despite her fear of the man, frowned. "You are willing to deal with the pain for the rest of your life?"
He looked up, his eyes turning a shade darker. "My life will not be much longer." He looked startled at the look of shock that crossed her face. "Surely," he said, in his broken English. "You do not expect me to stay here much longer? You are a woman. No man would allow his wife," His eyes once again gave her a long once over. Gwen felt heat rise from her chest and into her neck and face. "To stay here by herself. There must be someone who comes. A lieferant perhaps?"
Gwen looked up, startled. "Excuse me?" she asked, fearing the worse.
"It in Englisch is like-" he broke off and started mumbling under his breath. "Like carrier boy. Brings things to you, from mainland."
Gwen gasped in relief and blushed. "A delivery man? Yes there is a delivery man. He comes to bring me mail once a month. I often pay him for a ride back to the mainland. From there I buy my own food. He also gives me a ride back."
The Nazi man's crisp blue eyes flickered up to her face. "When was the last time this Mann came here?" he asked, fixing her with a patronizing stare.
Gwen, who's fingers had been perched above the keys of the type writer, froze suddenly, finally understanding what the man was getting at. "He'll not be here for another few week yet." she told him evenly.
He reached into his pocket and set the gun on the table, looking at her just as evenly. "And why should I believe a hure?" he spat, furiously.
Gwen did not need him to translate to know that what he had said was something very terrible. "I–I'm not a-a prostitute, or whatever it was that you just called me. You can chose to believe me, or chose not to believe me. I do not care."
Was it just Gwen or did the Nazi's man's eyes just soften? Gwen took another look and found that it must have a been a trick of her eyes, for his were colder than ever. "Wrong answer, hure!" he spat again.
Gwen cringed at the word, and his tone. "I do not lie to anyone, even you, a Nazi, the most horrible person possible, because it goes against my religion. You believe in God, don't you?" Gwen asked, suddenly feeling braver.
"Of course I believe in Gott. I am not a-a traitor."If he'd been angry before, Gwen had no idea what emotion he was showing at that moment.
Gwen stifled a snort, covering it up with a fake sneeze. He looked at her hardly before muttering, "Gesundheit."
Gwen looked at him shocked, but quickly recovered, hoping to get back to the original topic at hand. "Your ribs need to be wrapped." she told him, quietly. "Now, I can send a letter to the mainland, and tell them you're here," She looked up to find him seething in anger and his hand reaching toward the pistol. "Or, you can let me heal them. Kill me if you wish, but that doesn't make you any better than any other Nazi, or Hitler himself!"
The man glared coldly, but sh could see him softening, slowly but surely. She slipped her hand across the table and snatched the gun away before he could do anything. He stood up, the table rocking uneasily. Gwen, alarmed reached out to steady her precious typewriter, the gun falling into her lap. He was around the table in two strides, his hand outstretched, reaching for the pistol. Gwen snatched it back up and with shaking fingers pointed it at the man before her. "Don't touch me." she ordered. "Ever again. I will turn you in if you do."
A muscle twitched in his jaw as his face hardened at the sight of her emptying the pistol of the five bullets it contained and dumping them down the front of her dress. "I will not hesitate to harm you, Miss, should I feel more threatened than now." His eyes stared directly at the place where the bullets had disappeared down her front.
Gwen quickly crossed her arms and the man rose one eyebrow. "I will let you tend to my ribs, if you swear not to tell anyone."
Gwen wasn't sure that those were all of the conditions, but she supposed that it would do for now. She stood. "Excuse me then, for a moment." She left the room, hurrying back to her own, shoving the pistol under the mattress, and collected her first-aid kit. She went back into the room and found him sitting at her place, reading the typing. "Excuse me!" she snapped.
He jumped up. "It isn't good anyway. I daren't finish it."
Insulted, Gwen picked up the typewriter and set it on the counter, covering it was a dish towel. She went back to the table and opened the kit, looking through the kit. She found instructions, but they were in German and she did not feel like having her dear friend, Steffan, as he claimed to be called, jeering at her lack of lingual skills. She took out the gauze wrap, and decided that it would be enough. She went to the corner of the room, bending over at the waist to pick up a basket.
Steffan watched, trying to hide a boyish grin, as the woman bent over, the skirt of her dress riding up her legs in the back, giving him quite a view. She got the basket and turned to face him. She looked shocked. Quickly Steffan tried to hide the grin, covering his mouth with a fist and coughing, wincing at the real pain it brought him. She noticed. Quickly she grabbed what looked like an old sheet out of the basket and began ripping it into strips.
"Take off your shirt," she said.
Once again, he resisted the urge to laugh at her, but simply did as she bade. He unbuttoned the shirt slowly and watched her eyes widen. Then she whirled around, facing away from him, as if suddenly realizing what she had just asked of him. He pulled the shirt off his shoulder with a wince and tossed it onto the table. "There, I'm done."
She turned back around, keeping her eyes on the floor. She picked up one of the long strips of cloth and began to wrap it around his chest. She layered it again and again, using all the strips of cloth, then keeping it in place with the gauze. She stepped back, her hands on her hips, as if surveying her work. Then she smiled shyly. "That must be a bit better. Now, something to eat."
A long and slow week passed. The man and woman hardly spoke to one another, if they had to. Gwen came accustom to waking up to find him in the kitchen staring at the table in front of him. She also grew accustom to hearing him draw his own bath water and sink down into the hot comfort.
It was a sunny breezy day, sometime in May, when Gwen finally found herself fixing Daisy's shelter. She straightened up the boards, setting them in neat piles, indicating which could be used, and which could not. She found a hammer and a jar of old nails in the basement. It was early in the morning, the sun had been up for only an hour, but the tea and coffee had been set out for Steffan, like clockwork.
She set about building the frame, but found that she had no idea what she was doing; the shelter had been on the island when she had moved there. She sighed and sat on a rock, resting her chin in her hand. Daisy came up to her with a bleat and nibbled at the grass near her feet. Gwen scratched the white goat on the head as she pondered just how she would build the stupid, god-forsaken, goat shelter. She stood up and circled the mess of wood, her arms crossed. She gave in with a sigh. The delivery man would just have to fix it for her next time he came. She was about to sit down on the rock again when a noise from the house made her look up, alarmed. She saw Steffan standing in the doorway, full dressed, his hair wet.
He walked out, looking from her to the goat to the wood mess and back again. Then he burst out laughing. Gwen had never heard him laugh before and was quite surprised at the soft quality of it. It seemed that this man was not hard inside and out like she had suspected. "What?" she asked, curious to why he had laughed in the first place.
He was still laughing when he came to stand by her side, picking up the hammer. "Typisch Frau!" He laughed. "You cannot do this."
Gwen did not know if she should be insulted, or if she should laugh with him at her own stupidity. "I-I don't understand."
He chuckled again. "Give me those nails and I will build your zeige's house."
"Oh," she said quietly. "Thank you. I-I'll be inside, if you . . . need anything." Gwen said, backing away from him uneasily. She turned around and hurried back into the house.
She barricaded herself in the light room for the remainder of the day. Something just wasn't right. After that man, that Nazi, had shown up, she hadn't been the same. Every time he glanced at her, even if it was in anger, something poked and prodded at her heart. She had no name for it.
She paced back and forth, watching him below as he slowly rebuilt the small hut. Each time she looked at him something, something she had no name for, something that she had never felt before, would overcome her. She sighed and sat down, leaning against the glass, she was hoping for the delivery man to come so she could get off the island and get away from him. He was always there. Whenever she went into her bedroom, even if it was just to get some more ink, or paper for the type writer, he would follow. Luckily he didn't know where the gun was, at least that's what she hoped. He was so silent though, that it confused her. She didn't know if he was naturally quiet, or if it was out of anger, or discomfort that he remained silent.
It was nearing sun-set when she finally stood and looked out at the sea. The sun's rays were bouncing off the water, reflecting the brilliant colors. Just behind the setting sun she could see a new storm front moving in. It was moving quickly. Ten minutes later the sun had set behind the horizon and the clouds were moving closer.
With a sigh she realized that she should get something out for them to eat. She unlocked the trap-door and started down the ladder. Touching the last rung she slipped and fell, landing painfully on her rear. There was a short snort from behind her and she stood up, startled. Behind her Steffan was staring at her, his face expressionless, except for just a hint of laughter left in his eyes. She sighed and rubbed her rump. "Yes? Did you need something?"
He shook his head. "No." He paused and held out his hand, offering the chipped mug to her. "I finished the shelter for your zeige and you didn't answer my calls. I thought you were . . ." he trailed off, his expression looking thoughtful. "I do not know the word. You would . . . how do you say . . . schreibmachine." he mimed pressing buttons on the typewriter.
Gwen was startled. So far he hadn't actually cared when she had misunderstood his words, but now he was trying to make her understand. She nodded. "Typewriter? No, I was . . ." she quickly searched for a lie. "I needed some time alone."
"Ah, I see. I brought you Kaffee." he motioned for her to take the cup. She did so with hesitation. "Do not worry, Fraulein. I did not poison it, if that is what you think."
She blushed and took a sip of the coffee. It was thick, and creamy. Had he put milk in it? She took another sip. "Thank you. I will get us something to eat."
Their meal consisted of canned vegetables and fruits, all which were non-perishable, and had been there for many years, canned meat mixed with the vegetables, rice, and broth to make a stew like soup. She stirred the soup over the stove, realizing that she had neglected to collect firewood. With a sigh she added it to her mental list of things to do. She also had to do laundry, by hand, clean dishes, and check the lantern light for repairs.
She would do all three that night, after they had finished eating. She ate quickly and excused herself. She pulled on her coat and boots, and grabbing a lantern. She slipped outside the door quietly and made her way down to the beach. She hadn't been to the beach since the day that she had found Steffan, and, to be frank, she was worried that she would find another body, this one dead. She kept he eyes locked on the sand at her feet. Every few moments she would hear something behind her and figure it to be Daisy, who like to spend her nights on the grassy cliffs, eating as much grass as she could. But, the one time she did turn around, she found herself face-to-face with Steffan. He also had a lantern and the way he held it near his face made shadows fall. His face looked disfigured.
She took a step back and he followed. For a fleeting moment Gwen wondered of she would fall to his hands, if he would rip off her coat and dress, and rape her, then toss her body into the churning sea. She took another step back, and once again he followed. She gulped, at a loss for words. He reached out and set his own lantern on the sand near their feet. He looked to her eyes. "You should not be here alone."
Surprised Gwen snapped, "Why not? I've been alone since the start of the war. I think I can manage a few more hours."
Steffan's look turned painful. "The men that I worked with on that U-boot, are not the friendly type, Fraulein. They would make a meal out of you." he said quietly, and for a moment, a single fleeting moment, it seemed that he cared.
Gwen ruined that moment. It scared her. "And you would not to the same? I believe you plan while I sleep! You follow me–"
His hand shot out and grabbed her arm. She screeched and dropped the lantern. "D-don't-" she pleaded, once again fearing the worst.
He pulled her closer and looked into her eyes. "Do not dare suggest something like that to me." His nostrils flared as his cheeks grew red with anger. He shook as he stared into her eyes. "I have seen things that you dare not think about, so do not judge me. Those days are behind me."