Later, after David had cleaned and dressed, he and Maria descended to the darkroom to examine the development box and its instruction booklet. He read the introductory pages, then looked up. "It can be done in normal light. This is a new device I wasn't aware of. When using this box, we won't need to use the red light."
"What's the red light?" Maria asked.
"The silver salts in the emulsion that coats the film aren't sensitive to the red end of the light spectrum, so a red light is used for illumination when light-sensitive material is exposed. It's rather eerie. Here, let me show you." He switched the lights from white to red.
"Strange illumination. Difficult to see. Things appear rather fuzzy, but I guess one gets used to it."
He switched on the normal light, turned off the red and returned to reading the instructions. "We need to prepare the developing solution." He looked at the row of boxes at the back of the counter. "Looks like this one." He pulled it out and took a beaker from the shelf, then looked at its etched graduations. "Take this and fill it with water to this line, while I read further."
Shortly before noon he had developed the film, rinsed it and hung it to dry. "The pleasing thing is that we got all ten shots. Difficult to see their quality, though, with the negative images. We'll have to —"
"Negative images? What are they? Sounds like part of the lecture the teacher gave us about reputation."
"Normal light affects the silver salt crystals in the emulsion. The greater the light, the darker they become, so the darkest parts of the captured image are shown as white on the developed film, and the lightest areas are rendered as black. Between these extremes are varying shades of grey. Everything is reversed, so the developed plate or film is referred to as a negative."
"So how do we turn a negative into a positive?"
"In life, we stop concentrating on what's wrong with a situation and dwell instead on what's right with it."
"So what's right about your leaving me? Going back to the war?"
"Tante was telling me yesterday while you were gone, that if it's true love, absence will only intensify and deepen it. I cannot imagine any feeling deeper than what I already have for you, but I'm thrilled that there could be more intensity, more depth."
She pulled herself into him, and they melded in a passionate hug. "You make my heart flutter. Your words, the way you look at me. My God, I love you." Their mouths merged as their hands caressed and explored.
A while later, as her head rested on his shoulder, she quietly asked, "So what about turning the negative strip into positive images? How do we do that?"
"The simplest way is with a contact print. We press the desired portion of the negative to a sheet of light-sensitive paper and expose it to a measured amount of light. The same chemical process that made the negative now makes a positive image on the paper."
"That sounds simple, let's do it."
"We have to wait for the negative to dry. We don't want to wipe it dry, lest we scratch the surfaces. But there's more involved in the process. We need to mix more chemicals in trays, a developer, a stopper and a fixer to render the exposed image to a finished print."
"So we're stuck with this size?" She pointed to the hanging strip.
"No, not at all. We can expand the image size using the enlarger." He pointed to the complex device on the counter. "The negative is mounted in the holder, and light is projected onto the paper through a lens. We can move the negative around and select only a portion of the image, adjust its size and focus and print it as large as the sheet of paper."
"How big can we go?"
"These negatives are postcard size, about eight by fourteen centimetres. It depends on what paper Aaron has." He opened the cupboard and looked at the flat boxes. "Here, this is the largest one, thirty by forty centimetres. The paper inside is nearly the size of the box."
"That'll do for my portrait of you, but for the essay illustrations, I want the same size as my writing paper."
"What size is that?"
"I'll go get it."
She returned less than a minute later with a page. "I still have about half a ream left of this. It's what I've used to write my school notes and papers."
David matched it to a box in the cupboard. "This looks closest." He hefted it and depressed the top. "Feels like it's nearly full." He read the label. "Twenty-four sheets, well over a dozen left in here."
"That's plenty. More than enough."
David checked the strip of negatives. "This is now dry. We can cast some images with the enlarger to check their quality." He studied the machine for a while, then scanned the instruction leaflet. "Simple. I like Aaron's choice of uncomplicated things."
They examined the images as he projected them onto the sheet of writing paper. "They all look good, but by far the best are the ones done at one-fiftieth." He rotated a knob and raised the projection head away from the easel, expanding the image on the paper. "This is how we enlarge it. The farther the negative, the larger the image."
"So, we can shoot the rest of them at the middle setting, at one-fiftieth of a second. These are all so wonderful, especially the portrait. I want that one expanded as much as possible and framed."
"I want a photo of you to take with me, a postcard size one to keep in my breast pocket, over my heart. Something to excite me as I pleasure myself."
Maria bit her lower lip and blushed as she gazed into his eyes. "It warms me just to think of you looking at them stroking yourself. I'd love you to have some images of me."
He pulled her into his arms, and they melded as one in a long, tight embrace. A few silent minutes later, David looked at his watch. "It's a little past noon — it makes sense to pause now for lunch. Afterwards, we can shoot the remainder of the images, and while waiting for the new film to dry, we can start the printing."
"I love your logic, your way of seeing how things fit together."
"I love the way we fit together."
"This is my fourth day of fertility. Four more to go before it's safe again for that. I cannot believe how much I miss it."
"I wasn't thinking of just that. Certainly, our futtering is a magical part of our togetherness, an extremely important one, but the way our spirits merge, the way our minds work in harmony; that's most wondrous to me."
She melted into him again.
YOU ARE READING
In the early months of the First World War, a young Canadian soldier uses quick thinking and ingenuity to evade capture after being wounded fighting in Flanders. While escaping through Germany to the Swiss border, he becomes intimately entwined with...