Copyright © 1998 by sandman
Author's notes: This is a companion to "Janey's April" by Janey. The order you read the stories in is not important although it will be easier to understand the formal language in this story if you read Janey's story first. If you read this story first you should next read "Janey's April." If you've already read "Janey's April," kick back and prepare to see the world through different eyes.
When I read "Janey's April" I was amazed at the richness of the Jean-Claude character and wanted to know more about him. So I sat down and wrote down the details that Janey hinted at in her story. When I got to the point where Jean-Claude participated in Janey's story I kept right on going. The ending of the two stories is EXACTLY THE SAME. The perspectives are different though and therein lies the tale.
A final note. This story is told by a Frenchman and the narrative tends to be formal and is not always perfect. Some mistakes are deliberate and some are accidental. You will enjoy the story more if you imagine the narrative with a French accent.
Credits: From beginning to end this is Janey's story. It's her character and her plot. Mike Ink, a reclusive wordsmith, has saved us all the perils of my grammar and punctuation (among other things) and polished this story more than I ever dared dream.
I was born in 1935 in Lyons, France. It was a very bad time to be a Frenchman, it was a very bad time to be a child. All around me the great post-war depression raged and people whispered in hushed tones that the winds of war were echoing through the hills again. And at the age of four, war did indeed arrive sweeping away the last remnants of my childhood innocence for war cares nothing of such things.
My Papa, a great and noble man, spoke soothing words to the German occupiers by day and worked for the French resistance by night. Often we would shelter Allied soldiers on their way back to friendly territory. It was a dangerous thing what we did, for the Germans wished to make many examples, that people would not do what my family did.
As the youngest brother of three older sisters, I had a very pronounced education in the differences between boys and girls, all the more so since our parents kept us separated from our neighbors.
Children know nothing of responsibility or danger. If I were allowed to play with the other children my age, I might say something and my friend might say something to his parents, and not all Frenchmen could be trusted. My father was certainly not going to leave that trust up to the idle chatter of young boys.
So, as war raged around us, I played house and sipped tea with my sisters in our tiny dwelling. I saw them nude countless times, and they I, for it was a small house and nudity to the French simply was not the shameful thing you Americans like to think. And so, at a very early age I knew the difference between boys and girls. Thanks to the war, I learned at a very early age what that difference was for. I also learned at the same time many things which to this day are burned into my very soul.
It was 1943, and the war was going very badly for the Germans. Allied bombers were wreaking havoc with their war effort, and they were powerless to do anything about it. Like the bullies they were, they took it out on those who were powerless against them, and ground the people of France under their boots.
Occasionally the German forces would manage to shoot down a bomber and just as occasionally a survivor would manage to make it to the underground. That particular night we were housing a young American soldier in the secret room our Father had built in the basement. My sister, Jeannette, and I were keeping the young man company, and he was telling us of the war and how well it was going.
His name was Bill Gere, and he was only sixteen, and barely that. He went into great detail about how he had fooled the recruiting officer into believing he was eighteen. He was only three years older than Jeannette, who sat beside him, listening politely. It was nothing we had not done hundreds of times before. But today would be different.
Today the war, which was always a thing raging around outside our front door, came inside.
We fell quiet when we heard a pounding on the ceiling, a signal that someone was at the door and to remain quiet. It was probably Mademoiselle Vinchie coming to borrow a cup of milk, but even a false alarm could set our nerves on edge. Though I was only seven, I knew enough to feel fear and the frustration at being unable to do anything about it.
How long we sat there listening quietly to the muffled voices and thuds of people moving about I can not say. Time ceased to exist after that first warning. Bill had put his arm around Jeannette, trying to calm her, though there was sweat on his brow and he glanced nervously at the ceiling.
When the door opened, we all gave a start, and Bill was on his feet fumbling for his side arm.
My father's face was a mixture of fear and authority. "For the next several days some German soldiers will be quartered in our house."
His voice was hushed, a whisper so low we had to strain to hear it though its tone brokered no argument.
He stared at Jeannette a moment. It was a thoughtful stare, a considerate stare. I did not understand it at the time, but I do now.
Papa was thinking that Jeannette was no longer a little girl, and that maybe it would be best if the Germans would not see her. Then he glanced over at Bill, and I know now that he worried about Bill as well.
"You two stay with the American." He told us. "Stay quiet. This will pass if you keep your heads." And then he closed the door, leaving us alone.
I can not begin to tell you how terrible that first night was. Even today, I wish that we had had at least a clock in that room. The tick-tocking away of the seconds would have at least marked the passage of time, giving us something else to think about instead of the danger we were in from men with guns walking above us. Boredom and terror merged into an endless litany of torment.
The second day was just as bad, though by now we had at least gotten used to our situation. Bill had taken on the role of Jeannette's protector, his arm constantly around her. With nothing else to occupy my attention, I noticed how they touched each other; how Bill's fingers idly felt Jeannette's arm; how her fingers weaved into his; how they would nuzzle their heads into each other. We could not talk, nor could we move lest we give ourselves away, but between my sister and this American crewman much was being said.
That night something happened upstairs. I later learned that one of the solders had touched my eleven year old sister in a way he should not have, and my Father took issue with it. There was a lot of scuffling and shouting and the sounds of things breaking, and then a gunshot. My father was not hurt, another soldier had grabbed the man's arm and changed the aim. The soldier was moved to another house and things got quiet again.
But we did not know what was happening. My sister and I were sure the Nazis were murdering our family. We knew they would do it just for the sport of it. I know that sounds horrible, but it was almost true.
In war, men do terrible things, things they would never do in peacetime.
When the scuffling started, my sister rose to her feet, staring at the ceiling as if somehow she could see through it and know everything would be all right. When the gunshot went off she squealed. Loudly.
Too loudly. Bill, who was standing beside her, hugged her tight as she trembled in his arms. We were sure we had been heard.
It was too much for Jeannette, and she began sobbing. The sobs were small whimpers at first, but as the unknown and our danger gave birth to her fears the whimpers became louder, just when it was beginning to get quiet upstairs. Left alone, my sister would have doomed us all, but Bill kissed her. It was not a friendly, reassuring kiss on the cheek. It was a forceful, demanding kiss, on her lips, with all the confidence born from their many hours of touching.
I know he did it to quiet her. Knowing what I know now of men and women, Bill did not set out seduce my sister. The touching was a comfort; nothing more, nothing less. The kiss was to quiet her -- the only way he could do it without scaring her more. But the kiss, surrounded on all sides by fear and terror, perched over the abyss of life and death, took on a life of its own.
Everything became quiet as they looked into each other's eyes. To them it must have seemed as if the world had stopped and maybe it had.
I sat in the corner watching them watch each other -- a seven year old boy trying to understand things much larger than himself.
They kissed again, and it was not a slow, tender thing, but a thing born of need. Not the need of lust, but the need to feel safe and wanted. This too, I did not understand at the time, but do now. From within this kiss they removed each other's clothing, in a strange, silent ballet.
I knew the difference between boys and girls, but as Bill's engorged penis came into view the second part of my education began, as I learned the difference between women and men.
In the tiny room, Bill and Jeannette moved to the bed and she spread her legs for him, an invitation he accepted readily as he slid into her. In the dim light, I saw them move together in silence. There was a muffled gasp as Bill stiffened in Jeannette's arms, and then he rolled off beside her and they fell asleep in each other's arms.
.... There is more of this story ...