Chapter Fifty-Six

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Sonnenhang, Switzerland — Thursday, 17 June 1915

After farewells on Thursday morning, Maria, Rachel and David had headed back through Zürich and Winterthur to Schaffhausen, where they found the train station to make it easier on Monday. After a pause at the gasoline pump and the market in Unterhallau, they drove out the road toward Sonnenhang.

"Do you realise it's been only a week since we left here?" David asked as he steered the lorry into the lane. "So much has happened, it seems much longer."

Bethia stepped out into the courtyard at the sound of the lorry approaching, and she watched as David came to a stop, set the brake and lept from the cab to greet her. Maria jumped down and gave Rachel a hand, and they all gathered in a hug.

"The Army didn't want you?"

"That's exactly what Grandpa asked me." He laughed. "I'm back for a short while, then I must leave for England early on Monday."

"You're just in time. We've a large batch of cervelat ready to be pulled. Our first trial of the new smoker. We'll do some for lunch to see how it has worked." She turned and raised an arm. "You can see the edge of it over there. Completed on Tuesday morning. So pleased to have you all back again."

David glanced at his watch. Eleven ten. "We stopped in the market and bought fresh vegetables, some cheese and loaves of bread. We should wash off the road grit and dust. How's the hot water system working? The electricity?"

"Wonderful systems. Haven't needed to do anything to them. Don't even think of them, actually."

"Where's Greta?" Rachel asked.

"In the vineyards training the new growth onto the wires. She'll be here at twelve thirty for lunch. I could continue this hug forever, but we've all things to do. Unload, clean-up, then we'll pull the sausage. You can tell us your stories over lunch."

David and Maria luxuriated under the shower for a long time as they washed and pleasured each other. "I can't believe how much I miss you inside. It seems forever since you've been. Tomorrow's our first safe fucking day."

David laughed. "It's odd to hear the word used correctly. It's strange, isn't it? How it's become the common expletive. The way many of the soldiers have adopted it, makes it seem as if they think sprinkling it through their speech plumps their image. Some seem unable to speak even a short sentence without at least one fuck, fucker, fucked, fucking or whatever. I don't know what they do when they need to express something strongly."

"When I was working in the gasthaus, I heard the rowdy ones use fick, ficken and gefickt a lot, so I finally asked Mama what it meant. She told me it was when a man and a woman love each other and become physically intimate, but when the word is used in ordinary conversation, it means the speakers are ignorant and incapable of properly expressing themselves."

Maria smiled at him and shook her head. "I guess that was one of Mama's attempts to tell me about fucking, but I wasn't interested. Funny, that was only a short while before I met you. I'm certainly interested now."

"I think it's a fine word for two intimate people to use between themselves. Like the act, it's shared closely, not broadly." He ran a finger between her lips and lingered again on the nub, then ran a finger inside. "I can barely wait until tomorrow to share our next fuck. Maybe we could start at midnight."

"Oh God, that feels so good. Bring me again, then we need to go."

Twenty minutes later, David was pulling skeins of sausage from the smoker shelf and handing them down to Maria, who laid them on the counter for Rachel and Bethia to cut at the twists and place in shallow wooden bins.

"That went quickly," Bethia said as she cut the last skein. "We'll have to lug the trays to the cold room, I haven't yet found a cart."

"The cold room is finished?" Rachel asked.

"The two ammonia compressors were installed yesterday, and we began cooling the room last night. It should be fine now, it was at seven degrees when I put the hams in first thing this morning. Pick up a bin and follow me." Once across the room, she opened the door and looked at the thermometer. "It's now six degrees. Ideally, we want four."

"It appears you've found a new source of meat, Tante," Rachel said. "Hams, sausage scraps and casings."

"A large hog farm three kilometres to the south of Unterhallau. I found him through his stall in the market."

They had just finished carrying the last of the bins and placing them on shelves when Greta came into the kitchen. They all greeted, and while Bethia and Maria prepared lunch, the others sat at the table. David began telling of their adventures the past week, Maria jumping in to alternate, and by the time the cervelat was cooked, and they were all seated around the table, Maria was finishing describing the lunch at the Embassy.

"Such a fine couple they are. I am so honoured to be moving in with them, but even more to be working on the prisoner of war project."

"When will you move to Bern?"

"Edith said to come whenever I'm ready. She's having rooms prepared for me now. This is still like a dream for me. The past seven weeks have all been like a dream." She squeezed David's arm and looked into his eyes. "I'll be driving David to Schaffhausen for his train on Monday, and I'll buy a ticket to Bern when I'm there. I'm not sure yet for what day, but probably by the end of the week."

"Why don't I drive you to Bern?" Rachel asked. "That would be so much easier for you than juggling all your baggage with porters on and off the train and then to the Embassy. From Winterthur, the road is excellent the rest of the way, and you know the route."

Maria nodded. "We could take some of our wine as a gift. God knows they need better wine. Actually, a better wine buyer."

"Would that be appropriate? German wine?" Bethia asked.

"Yes, but made by British-Swiss citizens," David said. "I think it's wonderfully appropriate. Brought here by survivors abandoning the sinking ship that Germany is becoming."

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