The Dream went live on Kindle last night. I don’t know exactly where the idea for the story came from, but then I almost never do know where the idea for a story comes from. It arrives, and I write it—though often there’s an interval between the seed and the finished article. In this case, I typed out these sentences several weeks ago:
She had the dream again last night. The one set in 1941, which was thirty-five years before she was actually born, but that’s what dreams can do. In the dream she’s the English head of a private girls’ school in France. Another thing that dreams do is skip over all the little linking bits, like how the soldiers surrounded the school and whether the girls are all safely asleep, and lead straight in to the action.
Which, in this case, is the Leutnant and two of his men standing in her office. The two men are smiling, grinning in fact in anticipation of what they no doubt know as well as she does is going to happen, but there is no smile on the face of the Leutnant. A Leutnant isn’t a proper officer, she knows that. He’s the equivalent of an English Second Lieutenant, a glorified NCO really, but he has the power here and he knows it and she knows it.
She wonders, as she does every time she has the dream, how this young officer can possibly be so tall, so well built, so powerful and so blond. The German economy has struggled since the end of the previous war, starving its people to pay reparations to a vindictive France. That’s how Hitler found it so easy to take power, isn’t it? This young man, this boy really, was born during that time, so how does he get to look like a corn-fed child of the Canadian prairies? He should have rickets. It’s a mystery.
That was as far as I got, and then I went back to what I’d been working on before. On the surface it might have seemed that I had forgotten about The Dream but I knew I hadn’t. It was ticking away in my subconscious, which is the way it always happens with me, and three days ago I had the finished thing lined up in my head. All I had to do was write it J.
It’s now done and last night I put it on Amazon—you can find it here (at $0.99) on Amazon.com and here (at £0.79) on Amazon.co.uk. If you’d like to see a bit more, to make up your mind whether you might like this story, this is how the beginning (above) continues:
‘What’s your name?’ He’s asked this question every time she’s had the dream, which means every night this week, really; he should know her name by now but still he asks for it.
‘My name is Christine. I am a British citizen. You have no right to keep me here.’
He smiles. It is not a nice smile. ‘You are correct, Christina. So what shall we do? Would you like to leave? Of course, a woman on her own making her way on foot through an occupied country might have difficulties. Not all our soldiers are as polite as I am. And I don’t know what you’d do if you ever reached a port. But, please. Feel free to go.’
She stares at him. She knows what he suggests is not really a possibility.
‘And when you have left,’ he says, ‘I will be disappointed. I shall have to enjoy the Head Girl instead. What is she? Eighteen? Perhaps my disappointment will not be so severe. And I shall turn my men loose on all these girls you have here. You think their parents will like to have them back with German babies?’
This, also, is not a possibility. A headmistress takes on responsibilities along with the prestige. Protecting the young ones in her charge is her most important task. If it means she must sacrifice herself, then…
In the dream she is still a virgin. She isn’t, of course; not after eight years of a marriage now thank God dissolved, but in the dream she has never known a man. That has remained constant all week. Something that has changed is what she wears. On the first night when she removed her tweed skirt at the Leutnant’s behest she had on the Marks and Spencer knickers and tights that are her usual wear, but in her musings on the dream the following day she saw how ridiculous that was. So on the second night she stripped to what her father used to call Harvest Festivals. “All is safely gathered in.” They were no more right than the St Michael’s cotton; her great-grandmother might have worn them; she could see from the Leutnant’s face that she had displeased him; so on the third and each subsequent night she adopted what she thinks a well-off French woman in 1941 might have worn.
‘Have you considered your position?’ asks the Leutnant.
‘I cannot leave my charges to your care.’
He nods. ‘Take off your clothes.’
‘Take off your clothes.’
And so she does. What choice does she have?
10 September 2013