Right then, I fancied updating this :) I'm throwing us waaaaaayyy back to 1928 and right at the start of Florian's marriage to young wife Maria...things aren't going well, as I hope you'll see, very much a character building chapter with the big storyline, what'll be the backbone of the piece, being introduced slowly. It'll be interesting to know where your allegiances lie to begin with :P Camp Florian or Camp Maria! Enjoy!
Chapter One: Hasty Marriage
Seldom Proveth Well
Florian von Lessner opened the front door of his relatively new, three story, Frankfurt townhouse, which was situated along a quiet street in the Aldstadt area of the city-state. His ears were greeted by the beautiful sound of silence as he shut the door behind him and placed his leather satchel and overcoat on the thick oaken floor. The house was a wedding gift from his over-excited mother and ever neutral father. It was rather new, built just before the Great War broke out. Florian remembered how he would walk down here on his way to school, and think of how wonderful it would be to live on such a street, where the paper boy came and posted the newspaper through the letter box every morning and the milkmaid would come and collect and replace the four bottles of milk on the top step.
Florian sighed as he thought of how he had been pleasantly surprised at the wedding breakfast, when his father had presented him and his new bride with the front door keys to 26 Mühlenstrasse. As Florian walked slowly around the staircase, admiring the intricate carvings of angels and cherubs into the sandstone ceiling, he realised that this house was still yet to be a home, there was still an air of unfamiliarity about the place, and even though the main rooms were filled with paintings and books and photos of his and his wife's families, it was still unfamiliar; perhaps it was the lack of life in the house, Florian thought as he ran his hand across the heavy wooden banisters, perhaps the house needed a child.
Florian stopped as he considered it for a moment.
He would so much like to be a father.
Suddenly, there was a loud clanging of metal onto a hard surface, and Florian heard that shrill voice cry "It's no use!"
Sighing through gritted teeth, Florian turned and headed towards the kitchens where the sound was coming from.
"What's no use, Maria?" Florian called to his new wife as he heard more pots and pans being thrown onto the cold stone floors of the kitchen. He then heard a shriek and stepped down into the main kitchen just as Maria von Lessner cried out again in fury and threw a large copper saucepan onto the floor.
"This!" Maria gestured to the array of cooking utensils on the floor surrounding her, Florian could see a lumpy mixture of sorts bubbling in the greasy baking tray which was sitting on the large oak table "This thing! I hate cooking! I don't see why you didn't hire a cook when you had the chance!"
"Because you're a middle-class housewife now, Mia," Florian's voice was gentle compared to his teenage wife as he bent low and began to pick up the copper pans "You have to cook for us."
"But I can't do it!" Maria gestured to the grotesque looking thing in the baking tray "I tried! Look! I wouldn't want my worst enemy to eat that, let alone myself!"
Florian stood up, placing the first set of pans back onto the table, he glanced at his wife's first attempt at baking and raised a delicate eyebrow "Well, you learn from your mistakes."
Maria groaned and cried out in frustration "But I cannot cook! I told you this!" Florian heard her sigh from his place on the floor and she muttered "That's it. Tomorrow I am going to place an advertisement for a cook in the newspaper, there must be at least one woman in Frankfurt desperate for a job."
Florian kept his mouth shut as he stood to place the final set of pans on the table. He was unnerved by Maria's silence; he could feel her presence behind him, and he could hear her breathing. But he was most anxious.
"I have a proposition though," Maria whispered gently.
Florian turned on the spot to look at his wife; she was short, five foot three inches to his six foot four, and she was curvaceous, far more developed than most eighteen year olds of the era wished themselves to be. In her own way, as she blinked up at her husband with her large hazel eyes and her thin, bow-shaped lips which were curved into a smile, she was pretty.
"I have a proposition," she repeated. Her voice was soft and if Florian looked carefully, he would see her chest rise in hopeful anticipation as she said with a sharp intake of breath "I'll learn to cook if you'll have a baby with me."
Florian's face stayed as if frozen in time; a baby? A child? He could feel himself wanting to laugh at her offer. Maria could barely look after a plant, let alone something that required feeding, watering and changing every hour.
"A baby?" Florian found himself echoing her with a rigid fear in his voice.
"Yes, a baby," Maria was careful to keep a foot's length away from her husband; she'd taken note that if he was approached by her too quickly, he would step aside and still keep himself at a happy distance "My friend gave birth to her first last week."
Florian was staring at her with his brilliant silver eyes, his elegant, dark, eyebrows were furrowed gently as if he was trying to digest what she was telling him. His thin lips pursed slightly, as if he was going to say something, but then the fluttered back onto his face again, staying silent. He looked away to the side, revealing his fine profile.
"Florian?" Maria dared to smile as she called him "Would you have a baby with me?" The eighteen year old looked hopeful as she stepped aside to let Florian walk around her and back towards the front rooms.
Her eyes followed her husband as he walked; she watched with awe as he crossed the tiles, his dark grey suit clinging to the lithe muscles of his legs and the swell of his buttocks. A shining leather belt drew his wife's eyes to his cinched waist, which she knew would broaden out to strong, wide shoulders and a thick, lean neck. Florian stopped and looked at her, his dark hair falling in front of his face, finally rebelling after a day of being slicked back on his head. His long, womanly hands tapped the side of the wall in rhythmic fashion and he glanced around again at the kitchen.
"Florian, please?" Maria's voice was more desperate, more childlike, as she pouted up at him.
"I'll...," Florian paused and smiled at her "I'll see after dinner, hmm?"
"Dinner?" Maria followed him "I haven't got anything for dinner!"
"It's alright, I'll go out!" She heard Florian call as he stepped neatly back up the stairs.
Maria turned back into the kitchen and sighed heavily. What a mess. All the other girls her age who had married had either had babies by now, or were very close to doing so. One girl she had known, Frau. Elize von Koertig, was heavily pregnant with twins. And Maria was standing here still as virginal as she had been on the day that she was born.
She had hoped that Florian had changed his mind as she heard his footsteps run up and down the stairs. He was going in and out of the various rooms upstairs, and Maria's eyes drifted toward the ceiling as she heard him settle in his study. She turned back to her failed baking attempt and made a face; what was wrong with her? Why didn't her husband find her even the least bit attractive? She pondered the possible answers in her own private thoughts as she went about throwing the kitchen back into some sort of order.
Upstairs, Florian inhaled deeply on one of his cheap cigarettes. He smoked tobacco through everything; pipe, cigar, and more recently the cigarette. Ever since he had been told by his doctor that, at twenty-four, his lungs were working far harder than they should be, he had cut back on his twenty-five a day Prussian cigar habit, and had switched to a far healthier option of twenty-five a day Bavarian cigarettes. The taste was much the same, a heavy, rich, earthy texture that lingered in the mouth, but the tobacco content was less and, for Florian, he found the cigarettes far more intoxicating. He knew that Maria would squawk at him if she came up here to find him, firstly smoking, and secondly, with the small window for ventilation closed. Florian didn't see the point, even if he did have the window open, it would be no use, the smoke from the cigarette wouldn't even be able to find the opening to fresh air, for it was hidden behind boxes and books and trinkets, all of which Florian could never be bothered to organise.
That was his life, the psychologist deducted at that moment, an disorganised order of things.
He swallowed and thought of what his old friend and colleague, Dr. Oskar Keller, also HRH The Grand Duke of Saxony, would be saying now. He would probably moan at Florian, lecture him about the dangers to his health from smoking, and then obsessively rearrange the room to how he liked it, which was in order and clean. Florian smiled as he exhaled, watching the smoke escape from his nostrils, he did indeed love Oskar. He was so different yet so similar to Florian. Suddenly, any thoughts of Oskar aside, Florian startled as he heard Maria's feet on the stairs "Florian?" She called him "Florian? I thought you were out?"
Florian shot up from his chair and lunged for his jacket, he pulled it on and ran a comb through his hair, checking to make sure there was no dust on his collar in the little hand mirror on his desk. He held the cigarette in the corner of his mouth with his lips and ran a finger over his thin eyebrows, stopping to pluck a few wayward hairs from the start of the bridge of his nose with his tiny set of tweezers.
"Florian?" Florian looked up as he heard the door handle rattle.
"What?" Florian shouted as he opened the door to see Maria "I can hear you. I'm just getting my cigarettes."
"I wondered whether or not you were going out," Maria faltered as Florian slid past her. For a moment, she wanted to keep him there, keep him in that spot so that her head was just inches away from his strong, supple chest. She was so close to him, that she was tempted to reach out and touch the fine white cotton shirt he was wearing, beneath his waistcoat and jacket.
"I am," Maria was brought back to reality as she heard Florian's shoe on the first stair "I was just getting my cigarettes."
"You know what the doctor said," Maria called after him, seeing in the large ornate mirror on the wall as he stopped on the intermediate landing between the second and first floors. She watched in the mirror as his eyes glanced upwards to the heavens, but still she continued "You'll be dead before you're fifty the way that you carry on."
Florian spun on his heel and shrugged "So? Why not enjoy life?"
"Dr. Keller wouldn't be pleased," Maria tutted playfully, hoping to incite some reaction from Florian.
"Dr. Keller is far too in love with those little girls of his to worry about poor old Florrie," Florian smiled half-heartedly to himself, using the nickname that his doting sisters had christened him with when they were small "He told me himself, he's fallen head over heels for little Julia."
"Which one's that?" Maria asked, pleasantly surprised at the breakthrough her husband had made. At least he was talking about children now.
"The older one? The one with the lovely hair?" Florian motioned to his own luxurious strands of hair as he went to walk down the stairs "She's the one that I'm godfather to!"
Maria stood where she was, listening to Florian's receding steps as he descended the stairs and then she shuddered at the slam of the front door. If she strained her ears, she would be able to hear the ringing of Florian's shoes on the flags of stone pavement as he disappeared into the Frankfurt nightlife.
She was alone again in this huge house. The only company was the little Jewish maid who made the beds and dusted the ornaments downstairs for a few marks a day. She always left at six o clock so she could make it to the synagogue for evening prayers. Maria grumbled to herself as she found a layer of dust on her finger as she ran it across the banister, inspecting the Jewess' handiwork.
"Stupid woman," Maria muttered quietly; she turned and looked at herself in the big mirror, slimming her blouse against her body as so to accentuate her breasts. She didn't have the figure to carry off the boyish flapper dresses, she had far too many curves, but she wasn't fat. No, she was slender, and her face was a rather unique one. She had high cheekbones which had a sharp curve and a long, thin nose with a pointed tip. Her eyes were more structured than the normal oval shape, and the brows above them were sculpted to within an inch of their lives.
"I am pretty," Maria reassured herself "And Florian will see it." She twirled around again, her hair shining in a burst of copper as it caught the gleam of the light.
Florian's journey to his usual haunt was a short one. After leaving Mühlenstrasse and the other upper-middle class areas, and crossing the road towards the railway station, you would turn right along a row of two story townhouses, for the less well off middle classes who couldn't quite afford Mühlenstrasse prices. Your white-collar workers lived here; the lawyers clerks, the bankers clerks, the personal assistants, the sales advisers. Florian was pretty sure his father's old clerk used to live along here somewhere, he didn't know which one, but he remembered his father mentioning something about poor old Herr. Kopp having to sell the place to pay for his sons university education. After the row of houses finished, you would turn right again until you reached the sign for the Fünffingerplätzchen, upon which you would turn and walk down the Jewish quarter of the Aldstadt area, it was well named, this rather wide alley with five story buildings towering either side of it. For it was Jewish. There were Jewish haberdashers, Jewish cobblers, Jewish goldsmiths, Jewish milliners, even Jewish bakers. They all lived in the houses above their shops, mostly it was the entire family, the grandparents, the parents, the children, the aunts, the uncles. Occasionally there would be smaller families, and Florian often stopped to chat to the banker who lived on the apartment block at the other end of the road. His name was Otto Frank; he was a well-read man and always seemed interested in whatever Florian had to say, however boring it may have seemed to the psychologist himself.
Florian quickly crossed the street tonight, as nobody was about, not even the liberal Mr. Frank. And he hastily crossed the road, as to avoid the approaching tram, onto the Kaiserplatz. The Kaiserplatz was where the great and good of Hamburg came to nibble lunch, to party the night away, and to discuss the latest goings on with Europe. Florian would usually stop here during the day, even have a sandwich and a glass of lemonade in one of the cafes, but he crossed it, hastily rounding the fountain which sat in the centre of the square. He headed to the furthermost street, the one reaching towards the South West of the city, and revelled as the light from the lamps disappeared and he was lift in virtually complete darkness. He knew where he was going. Florian slid himself quietly down a small, tight alleyway between a office building and a bank, and headed towards the little door.
Three knocks. Two slow and one sharp. That was Florian's call. The door would then be opened from the inside and Florian would step inside. That particular night, he smiled and nodded at the young man who had opened the door for him, he removed his scarf as he clattered down the wooden stairwell, not forgetting to wink up at the doorman in gratitude.
The bar that the stairwell led to was seedy and dark, in one corner there was a set of tables, where boys of all shapes and sizes waited to pleasure you, cigarettes lolling out of the corners of their mouths and their shirts unbuttoned to reveal their gloriously smooth chests.
Florian admired the boys as he wandered over to the tiny bar to order a drink.
Tonight was going to be a good night.
As the clock in the tower chimed onto two o clock in the morning, Florian staggered back along the Mühlenstrasse, his head spinning and the street lamps above him causing his sinuses to ache. He couldn't remember what he'd drunk exactly, or what he'd smoked, or snorted. But it had been a good night. He'd managed to steal a kiss from a blonde boy called Lars, he was Swedish. He had been a little disappointed to see the boy from last week with another man, a black man. Florian had laughed openly when Lars pointed it out.
Fumbling with his keys, Florian unlocked the front door and all but fell into the entrance hall. He kicked the door shut and the preceded to crawl up the stairs.
The freezing cold water was fresh of Florian's face as he cupped his hands and splashed himself with it, trying to wake himself up. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror, his eyes were bloodshot, with dark circles around the edges. He was so tired but felt so awake.
Sighing, Florian left the bathroom and headed towards his bedroom, which was situated on the second floor next to his study. It was separate from Maria's, who slept on the first floor in her own little suite of rooms.
He opened the door to his room and flicked on the light. And he almost died from shock at the sight that greeted him.
Maria was lying on his bed, her pale skin contrasting with the dark room. She was nearly naked, but for a rather see through, pink chiffon dressing gown, which was tied loosely at the waist. Maria's big eyes stared up at Florian, who gazed at the body beating beneath his wife's chiffon gown; he could see the swell of her breast, the curve of her waist and the fleshy skin of her hip. Her lower legs were wrapped up in a mixture of chiffon and as she twitched nervously, Florian asked simply "What are you doing here?"
Without answering, Maria moved from her lying position to a kneeling one, the dressing gown was open somewhat, so Florian could see her chest rising up and down in anticipation. She held out her hand to him, inviting him to her.
Whether it was out of curiosity or out of politeness, Florian took Maria's hand and let her pull him forward. Her head was inches from his waist, and she stretched her body up as to undress his torso.
"Maria...," Florian sighed and shrugged her away "What are you doing here?"
"Hush," Maria's voice sounded tired and impatient as she unbuttoned his shirt to reveal a lean, muscular chest with a patch of dark hair around the breast bone area, and a trail of even darker hair running from his navel to beyond his belt.
"Maria," Florian didn't know why he was letting Maria do this to him as she tugged the shirt off of him and unevenly kissed his body.
It was only when Florian felt the snap of his suspenders against his back as Maria struggled to undo them, that he finally took action.
"Get out," he said firmly.
"Wha...wha..what?" Maria looked up at him suddenly, her hands falling into her lap "What do you mean?"
"Simply that," Florian cocked his head towards the door "Get out."
"Florian, I...," Maria protested as Florian swiftly grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her off the bed "I...I thought this was what you wanted..."
"Not tonight, it isn't," Florian said through gritted teeth and pointed towards the door "Now, I'm tired, so can you please leave?"
Maria looked somewhat hurt as she headed towards the door, ever an obedient wife. She stood outside on the landing, watching as Florian, half dressed, flung himself down on the sheets and fell to sleep almost instantly.
What had she married, and why did she love him?
Done! Weeey! So, what do you think? General review I think. I enjoyed writing that, and what parallels can you make, if any, between Florian and Oskar, and even Florian and David (from E & A). Who do you feel for more in this chapter, Maria or Florrles? Let me know! Reviews repaid! Thanks guys! E & A will be updated by midweek.