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The descriptions of sex in this story are of a kind that should not be able to harm or hurt anybody.
Life on the west coast of Denmark had definitely not turned out to be what Erik had hoped for, and it was even further from what he had dreamed of. Of course the three months of summer were tolerable, at times even beautiful, but for the rest of the year high winds, rain, sleet or fog set the mood.
His career as a teacher never took off. At least not the way he had wished for. The stubborn and slow sons and daughters of fishermen and farmers created a reality around him, which was lightyears away from the romantic picture that was painted in teacher's college. And socially he never really fell in with the parents. Partly from tradition, partly inspired by the dangerous work on the North Sea, religion plays a major role in everyday life. A severe faith, bordering on fundamentalism, permeats all levels of life in the small villages on the west coast, and as years passed by he felt more and more alienated - as if his surroundings turned their backs on him and just tolerated him.
Of course he had applied for promotion a few times, on his own school as well as on some of the neighbouring schools, but he never got one. Unfortunately, in those years there was a great surplus of teachers, and even his few attempts to get a teaching job in the eastern part of the country, had failed.
With women he was no great success either. The local girls married their own kind, and though he found a few pleasures among the summer tourists, nothing ever came close to real love or lasting relationships. The few times he attended courses and conferences, which might have been fair hunting-grounds, he had no luck either. Probably because he was so eager to 'score', that his female colleagues almost laughed at him.
At least in the women's department he ought to have had some luck, because actually he was a handsome man. Rather tall and slim, with a kind face which mirrored his nature, a steady job and a nice home, but already at fourty he had come to a standstill, almost as if he had started to die from inside. If you asked him that autumn in 1986 how he felt, he should most likely have said: - Life is a bitch.
That year, in late October, fate took him by the neck and shook him. He bought tickets to a series of lectures at the local library. "Modern explorers and travellers." Authors telling about their journeys, and filling in background knowledge which had not found its way to the pages.
The first lecturer was quite famous in Denmark. Kind of a dream-boy who travelled around the world in his old ketch, with different crews of pretty young women. His long, golden hair, his trimmed beard and bronzed body, and of course his fame, attracted women from all over, and his lectures were always attended by 80% women, the majority between 30 and 40. With dreamy eyes they ate up every word he uttered.
They were five minutes into the lecture when she arrived, and dumped her slim body in the chair beside Erik.
- Sorry, I'm late, she whispered. Can I sit here?
- That's OK, he whispered back, and looked at her for a second or two. Everything about her was just too much: Her hair too big, too many curls, too much makeup, her shirt too thin and her skirt too narrow. Eventually he recognised her. She had left school about 10 years ago - which meant she must be 25 now, though she looked a bit older. Helle. No, Helga was her name. He remembered her as a very lively and bright kid, fun as a pupil, but also at times a pain in the neck.
Erik slumped back in his chair and followed the lecture for some time. He could not help comparing the perfect blonde babes posing under the palms of Pacific islands to the scrawny, heavily painted Helga, while she was totally engulfed in the dreamworld that was painted in words and slides.
After well over an hour a break was announced, and Erik made motions to get up.
- I've better get outside for a smoke. It's not allowed in here.
- All right, I'll join you. I'm dying for a fag.
Outside they made small talk about the lecture, and it was very evident, that Helga was infatuated by the lecturer.
- I'm sure I have a big poster they issued with his second book. If you'd like it, I'll bring it to the next lecture. That is if you are coming.
- I'd love to have a poster of him on my wall, so I'll be sure to come. Thank you.
After the lecture he invited her for a cup of coffee in the cafeteria across the street. For the duration of the coffee they talked about Pacific islands, sailing, dreams etc., and as they left she smiled at him and said:
- OK, see you next Thursday, then.
The next lecture in the series was quite boring, and they left for the cafeteria after the first hour. Helga was very happy with the poster, and then Erik brought out a book he had brought for her to loan.
- Now, this is a book about the real wild-life men. It's a Danish author who has written a lot of short stories, very funny and loving, about the rough guys living in arctic Greenland, manning the outposts and hunting for fur. If you'd like to, you can borrow it, because that author is the next lecturer - and then we could have our coffee afterwards.
Helga smiled sweetly and accepted the book.
- You know, actually I planned on only the first lecture, but I'm beginning to enjoy myself. I'll read it, and I'll bring it next Thursday. See you.
For the first time in a couple of years Erik dreamed of women over the next few nights. No, not of women, of Helga. He would wake up in the morning slightly puzzled. She was nowhere near the women that up till now had filled his imagination. First she was much too young. She had a horrible reputation, and she looked like it. Heavily painted with a slutty look, her clothing cheap and tasteless, uneducated except for her 10 years at school, most of which she had forgotten, and a language adopted from sailors and fishermen. Erik was puzzled, but he had to admit to himself that he was looking forward to their next meeting.
- Wow. Some stories! She handed him the book and slumped down on the chair beside him, five minutes late as usual. Apparantly the stories had gotten to her, because she followed the lecture with great interest, and she would laugh loudly, too loudly, when the author expanded the stories with anecdotes that had not reached the pages. During the break she asked if Erik had more books by the author, and during the second part of the lecture she asked the author several questions about the stories she had read.
Their usual cup of coffee at the cafeteria was real fun, a lot of laughs and smiles and exchange of ideas, and as an answer to her question: Yes, Erik had more books by that author, and yes she could borrow a few, and if she wanted to, she could stop for a few minutes at his place to pick them up.
- A nice hut you've got here, was her comment, standing in Erik's livingroom. He chose a couple of volumes and handed them to her. They had agreed that she would not stay for a drink or some more coffee, as she had to be at work in the fish-factory at six o'clock next morning, and with a smile and a peck on his cheek she was away.
Her heavy perfume was in the air when Erik sat down in his armchair, and it felt like some of her lively spirit was still in the room. He put Beethoven's fifth on the CD-player, and with his eyes closed he enjoyed the music plus the feeling, that this had been one of the best evenings he had had for a very long time.
Life had not been easy on Helga either. Actually even worse. When she finished school at 15 she left home to fend for herself, only to find that unskilled labour usually is hard and poorly paid. In her subconcious search for love and recognition she drifted into the crowds, filling the local harbour-joints. Sailors, fishermen and tarts, they were, and Helga soon became one of them. The hard and cold work in fishing industries filled her weekdays. Weekends were spent dancing and drinking, forgetting her barren everyday life. More often than not, she would let herself be picked up by some rough caracter, who would fuck her for a night or two, and then discard her into the harsh light of Sunday morning.
Over the next years she really earned herself a reputation, but reputation at least is some kind of recognition, and she found it hard to tear herself loose from the environment, even though she often realised the low level she had reached.
Erik was the first man in years, who had spoken kindly to her, and as winter passed she followed all the lectures, and eagerly awaited her Thursdays. She even stopped going to the harbour-joints every weekend, and by March she realised that she didn't even miss it. Erik's undemanding kindness was really unexpected, but she basked in it, and by and by her feelings for him reached levels she did not know existed.
The last lecture in the series was scheduled for the last Thursday in March, and gradually Helga came to look at that date with a numb sadness. During their coffee after the last lecture but one, Erik asked if she'd like him to cook a nice meal so they could meet at his place at six o'clock before they went to the lecture.
- I'd like that very much.
- OK, then. I think this winter has been so nice, and a dinner would be a nice way to finish it.
- I'm really going to miss our Thursdays, and I only planned on going to the first. But I'll look forward to have dinner with you. Bye, and thank's for tonight.
She got up from her chair, leaned over and kissed Erik on his cheek, and away she was. The kiss did not pass unnoticed, and the next few days you could hear whispers in the village: I saw...,... or: You know, they say that Helga, the tart, you know, she kissed Master Erik in Doyle's cafeteria last Thursday... etc.
Dinner was partly a success. Nothing wrong with the meal, oh no, but as eight o'clock drew closer Helga seemed to get more and more moody.
- Come, now, Helga. What's bothering you? You've got to tell me, or I can't do anything to cheer you up.
- I don't know. I don't think I can tell you.
- I'm afraid you'll think I'm silly, or worse.
- That's the last thing I'd think about you, Helga.
- I'm so sorry that this is going to be the last lecture, and then I shall not see you again, and I've come to like you so much, but I know I'm not the kind of girl you'd want. There. Now I said it, though I wouldn't.
Erik looked at her for a few seconds. Her dark brown eyes were shiny and a small teardrop had formed in the corner. Thoughts, dreams and images raced through his mind at lightening speed.
- Helga. I've grown so fond of our meetings that you wouldn't know. I hate to see them end as much as you do. Why don't we skip the last lecture and just stay here and talk? Would you like that?
- I sure would. But, is that true? Have you feared the end as much as I have?
- This winter has been the best ever I've had in this wretched little village, and that's because of you, Helga. I have loved our talks, I've been looking so much forward to each Thursday, hoping you'd turn up again to warm my heart and give me the joy of your company. I never thought, though, that you might feel the same for me, being so much older than you.
During Erik's little speach the teardrop developed into a stream, and Helga started to cry and laugh at the same time. She got out of her chair and went round the table. Smiling, sobbing and laughing, with tears of joy running freely, she threw her arms round his neck and kissed him, again and again and again, his eyes, his lips, his forehead, his cheeks. All over his face, wet kisses, tears smeared all over him, dissolved mascara painting funny patterns on him.