To explain how Cora Allard, twenty year old American from a relatively influential New York family ended up in Wasserberg, Germany at the start of a World War is not all that difficult, and surprisingly, not all that strange of an occurrence. Like many in the New World, the Allard family had family still living in Germany, and true to their familial duty, the twenty year old nurse was sent to Wasserberg to care for her ailing great aunt and uncle. She had been almost as excited to meet her aunt and uncle as she had been to live in another country for a year or so until their deaths. Konrad and Anneliese Scholz were not suffering from any terrible disease that would make their demises certain, but they were now upwards to seventy years old, and ailing rapidly.
Cora was sent, not only because she was a nurse, and willing to travel away from home for so long, but because, on top of all this, she spoke more German than any family on their side of the ocean. Her father sent his aunt the offer, Anneliese accepted, and Cora was on a ship to France the next week. The trip was a brutal one, she was often sea sick, but the moment she stepped foot on the excitingly fresh European soil she felt alive once more. Once stopped at Honfluer, she boarded a barge that brought her down the Seine to Paris. From there, her cousin was waiting for her.
Heinrich Scholz was a sickly young man of twenty seven who had always done better in learning than in sport. He suffered from a rather debilitating stutter and had such a thick Austrian accent, for he had been raised in Vienna, that Cora and he struggled to understand each other at first, despite the fact that both spoke German. Once they were seated on the train, on their way to Berlin he relaxed some, and his voice easier to understand.
He was frail, taller and thicker than Cora herself, but not what one would picture when asked to imagine the ideal male. His blue eyes were bright, and icy, but not cold, and his blond hair was so magnificently bright it appeared his hair was white. Only in certain light could you tell his hair was actually blonde. His manner was rather abrasive, and he might be described as abrupt by some, but only due to the jarring nature of the stammer he suffered from.
Cora was friendly and kind to him, asking him about his family and what he enjoyed. She learned he had a degree in engineering from the University of Vienna. He was immensely proud of this education, and judging by the soft blush that covered his cheeks as he spoke, he could not help himself in bragged. The glasses he wore on the top of his nose when he took out his newspapers were round and clear, and appeared to be of very high caliber and quality. Cora wondered why, if Heinrich was as well off as she believed him to be, he could not have hired help for his grandmother and grandfather, instead of having her sent all the way to from New York.
When the conversation turned from him to her, Heinrich appeared more at ease, content rather to listen than to speak. His eyes remained on hers timidly, and sometimes he would look down into his lap, tap his gold wrist watch subconsciously and look back up. To most it would have appeared he was bored with her, but Cora could see it was only his nerves working against him. When she finished telling him about New York, what life was like in America, and her occupation, actually having work, he smiled softly and nodded appreciatively.
"Y-you i-mper-esss me mmmmuch," he said in English and Cora's eyes widened slightly.
"You speak English?" she cried in excitement and he nodded and blushed.
"Uh-uh- a little," he told her. He tried to tell her, in English, how he had attempted to learn the language in University, but that his professor booted him from the class room for being unable to pronounce anything properly.
"He n-never guh-gave me the ch-chance," he told her with a smile.
"I think what a man has to say is more important than how long he takes to say it," Cora told him. His eyes lit up as he smiled, bright, straight teeth meeting her acquaintance for the first time.
"I w-wish every-everybody f-felt that way," he told her. Cora asked him if he would be offended if she tried to nap a while, and he told her he would certainly not be. She gave him a small smile and placed her head down on the window to sleep. She woke up just a few hours outside of Zurich, and Heinrich took the time to explain to her what her living arrangements would be until August. She did not know why her living arrangements would be changing in just a few months, but she decided to leave it be for the time being.
He explained their family relations in some detail, revealing that he was child of the bastard son of Anneliese by a man other than Konrad, and that as a result, he and Cora were in no way related by blood. He explained the annulment of Anneliese's first marriage, how that made Heinrich's father a bastard, and that Konrad only let him come around because of his wife.
"I-it is c-complicated. Anneliese, m-my grandmoth-ther, was mar-married. Because I-I am the re-result of h-her marriage to an-another mmman, we h-have no blood connection," he told her in German. "Y-you see, you h-have n-n-no blood connection t-t-to Ann-ann-anneliese. So-so w-we are not related."
"I should still like to think of you as my cousin, if it is alright with you of course," Cora told him cheerfully. There was a flash of confusion that passed over Heinrich's features but he nodded politely. Once in Zurich they boarded a train to Salzburg, which was only a few miles south of Wasserberg where Cora's relations were. Heinrich was a wonderful help, and despite his sickly appearance, he carried her suitcases with no trouble from train to train, and helped her with everything she needed. Sometimes she would catch him staring at her, and she would offer him a small smile. She thought little of it, mainly to do with the fact that she doubted (wrongly) he had ever met an American before, and was simply interested in her for being foreign to him.
Overall the trip was exhaustingly long, and by the time the two arrived in Wasserberg Cora and Heinrich had been awake for the better part of thirty six hours. Heinrich carried her things to the car he had called for them at the train station, and then carried her belongings into her great uncle's house. They were not inside thirty seconds before Anneliese came out from a back room with opened arms, welcoming her niece and grandson.
"Look at you!" she cried as she hugged Cora tightly. "What a beautiful young woman, don't you think so Heinrich?"
"V-very beautiful," Heinrich said and Cora blushed deeply. When she was released from the hug Cora looked over Anneliese in confusion. She next glanced over at Konrad who was hobbling out with his cane. They both appeared old, but neither struck her as terribly ill. She glanced at Heinrich, who had once again been staring at her unabashed. His thin, pink lips curved into a small, shy smile.
"Are you feeling better?" Cora asked her aunt. The woman smiled slyly and Heinrich frowned.
"Sh-she was n-never ill," Heinrich said with as much confusion.
"But I was told –"
"Your father did not think you would come if you knew the truth," Anneliese said with a smile. She reached out to push a strand of Cora's thick, brown hair behind her ear.
"The t-truth?" Heinrich asked. "She doesn't kn-know?"
"Know what?" Cora cried, and looked over at her grim looking uncle.
"I told you this was a bad idea," Konrad muttered before turning and leaving the hallway. He seemed to want nothing to do with what was about to happen.
"Well, Cora, you're father needed money," Anneliese said as if Cora should understand. "Heinz here was in need of a wife. It happens all the time darling…"
"S-stop," Heinrich said, his face bright red with embarrassment. "I-I had been t-told you a-agreed."
She remembered the way he had been staring at her, the confusion that had passed over his face when she told him she would like to think of him as a cousin. She felt her heart flutter and her heart beat quicken. Her skin flushed, she felt dizzy and she looked over at the embarrassed Heinrich to her right. She took one last glance into his icy blue eyes before the world turned back and the floor gave out from under her. By the time Heinrich caught her in his arms, she was already unconscious.
I know that this is short, but this seemed like a very good place to stop for the introduction of the characters and plot. A lot more to come and chapters will be longer. I promise.
(this was partially inspired by rich American heiresses marrying lower income or impoverished nobility in England during this time but I decided to put it in Germany at the eve of WW1).
Let me know what you think and if you would like to see this continue.