The four children sat around their grandfather attentively and silently.
"What happened then, Opa?" the youngest boy asked.
"Well then," their grandfather explained animatedly. "Then, a sheep stole my goggles! He put them on his head and I chased him around the field asking him nicely to have them back."
"Did he give them back?" the only girl asked.
"No. He turned around and swore at me."
"Sheep don't swear, Opa!"
"They certainly do!"
"Well what did he say then?"
"No! We're not going there again," their grandmother intervened, putting down a tray of soft drinks on the garden table. "Stop making your Opa swear, you know he can't resist. Now drink these and then go off and play."
Ophelia sat on the chair beside Hans and handed him a drink. "Here you are, Opa."
"Why thank you very much, Nana," he replied.
"Nana can we put some music on?" one of the children asked.
"Yes, there's a cassette player in the drawing room."
"Do you have a CD player?"
"A what player?" demanded Hans.
"What on Earth is that?"
The boy stepped forward and handed him a hand-sized disc.
"Whatever happened to cassettes?"
"They're old, Opa."
"Come to that, whatever happened to a good record?"
The boy laughed and ran away.
"Have you picked up the post today?" Hans asked Ophelia.
"No. Shall I go and ask Meirion if he has?"
"Nah, he'll tell us eventually. Rhys! Rhys!" he called to one of the children. "Rhys, go and ask your grandfather if he's got today's post, will you? Or your Uncle Simon. Whoever you see first."
"Is it true that Uncle Simon was your boss in the war?"
"No, Uncle Simon – or Colonel Moss as I knew him then – was by no means my boss! He hit me a lot and swore at me, but he wasn't my boss."
"He says you were a pain in the arse," Rhys replied.
Hans burst into unstoppable laughter and Ophelia leaned forward in outrage. "Rhys! I will not have swearing in this house. There's always too much swearing in this house!"
Hans sat back and looked across the Penwig lawns. It was so lovely to have so many children running around. All his grandchildren, grand-nieces and grand-nephews; it was such a lovely sight. He felt so contented at the state of calm that their lives had reached. Penwig Court was so large, that following their marriages, Hans and Ophelia, Col. Moss and Viola, Meirion, Lavinia and their baby Lydia had all moved in to separate wings of the house. It wasn't anyone's intention at first for that arrangement to remain, but it suited everyone so well that they kept it so. The house was large enough for everyone to keep out of each other's way if they wished, while still gathering together when it suited them. It thrilled Ophelia that their children had all grown up together, as she felt it mirrored her own treasured memories of playing in the grounds of Penwig. And now their grandchildren played.
They did not have to move to Scotland. Or America. Or anywhere, in fact. Neither Uncle Hadley or the villagers were concerned by her relationship with Hans, or at least they did not appear to be. He became the respected village doctor, and within a year, Ophelia was sure they had forgotten he was German. Or rather, Austrian.
Rhys returned with a small handful of letters. "These are yours, Uncle Hans," he said.
Hans opened the mail as the children scattered and ran into the woods. Ophelia shouted after them not to go too far and turned back to Hans to see him apparently lost in thought as he looked at the front of one of the envelopes.
"Everything alright?" she asked him.
He looked at her gingerly.
"What's the matter?" she asked.
"Okay – don't be cross, please."
"I wrote to my friend Hamacher in Germany recently. You remember Hamacher, don't you? He was in the camp with me and was on my hospital ward when we first met. Covered in bandages?" Hans explained.
"Oh, 'Bandage Boy'? Yes, I remember you talking about him."
"Well, he's climbed the army ladder quite well now and he has access to a lot of stuff that many people don't. So I asked him a favour. I asked him to check the exact date and location of the flight my pilot and I took when we bombed a rural area by accident in 1944."
"You mean, whether you were the one who..."
Ophelia felt her pulse quicken slightly. She had forgotten. She always forgot. As soon as she remembered she would forget it instantly afterwards. And now he held the answer in his hands. Whether or not he had killed her parents in June 1944.
She watched him open the envelope. He took out the paper and looked at her one more time before unfolding it and reading it. She watched him closely and desperately as he read, looking for a tell-tale sign of the answer from his expression. But she could not see one.
Hans pursed his lips and exhaled. He looked at Ophelia and stroked her silver hair with his other hand.
"Do you want to know?" he asked gently.
She looked at him and knew she didn't. It wouldn't change a thing, so why would she want to?
"No," she answered firmly.
He smiled and put his arm around her, scrunching the letter in his hand and throwing it onto the flames of the garden barbecue. They walked away, hand in hand and wandered into the old abbey ruins where the children were playing. The children squealed, laughed and yelled as they ran among the ruins and gave the place an air of happiness that Ophelia had not known it to have since she was a child.
"It's not as dark as it used to be," she smiled.