Hannelore

It's 1926, and Hannelore Bauer is an English girl of German descent, who must battle through the prejudice and discrimination from the left over tensions of The Great War to fulfill her dream of becoming a dancer and moving to Paris.
This is a story of forbidden love, loss of the things that matter most, holding on to your dreams with a vice-like grip and overcoming everything to dance.

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12. 12

[You may notice in this chapter a familiarity that Hanna has with a piece of jewelry because of a woman called Mrs Gray, that's because i plan to add a scene earlier on in the novel, but you can ignore it for now ^_^]

 

None of us were entirely sure what to do with ourselves when the next morning came in a blaze of ripe orange sunlight piercing through the thin curtains.

“We could go for a walk?” Frank suggested as we sat around a table at breakfast. Eleanor shuddered, as though repulsed by the idea of hazarding the fresh air and the people around her that breathed it.

“Then what?” she demanded, “I mean, how many nights do we have left here? How much money do we have left? If you ask me we should hunker down somewhere, wait it out then move on.”

“Hunker down where, move on where?” I asked. “The rest of your money bought us three nights, and I reckon that together, Frank and I probably have about enough to pay for lunch for the days that go with those nights. We would have to hitchhike our way to anywhere else we wanted to go.”

“What then, jobs?” Frank asked through a mouthful of buttered toast.

“We’re not gonna be here that long are we?” I asked, taken aback. Frank shrugged and leaned back in his chair, looking incredibly laid back bearing in mind that he was considering staying in this place long enough to find a job.

“What?” I asked, my voice rising an octave, “what about your dreams as a pilot, your friends?” Frank shrugged again, “…family?”

Frank swallowed and stared at the table. Eleanor whispered in my ear.

“Has none.”

“Well what about you, don’t you have family?”

“I guess.”

“You guess?”

“It’s not, well, the best.”

“So both of you are fine with just, you know, staying here forever?”

Frank was silent, and though Eleanor was quiet too, I knew that there was something that she was holding back; the way that she looked at me as though she was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure out what.

“I think we should go for a walk,” I said, standing up and throwing down the wrinkled yellow napkin that had been curled in my hand. “I need some air.”

“Agreed,” Frank said, leaving the other half of his plate full and standing. We both looked at Eleanor expectantly until she sighed and stood, kicking back her chair in frustration.

“I’m telling you that this is a bad idea,” she said in my ear as we left the cottage and felt the cold sea breeze wash across our faces and play with our hair.

I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and leaned down, “we’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it. No one will recognize us. Can’t we just have a nice day out before we’re, you know, caught up with and stuck in a cell?”

Eleanor and I laughed a little and walked down the road arm in arm. Frank, who was walking ahead, looked behind at us with a look of pure astonishment.

“Laughing?” he said, “brilliant! What about?”

Eleanor looked down and bit her lip, smiling.

“Um, jail, I suppose,” I said. Frank frowned bemusedly, and then shrugged.

“Whatever makes you happy.”

We wandered the streets for little less than an hour, moving from one area of the coast to another until we discovered one that was suitably deserted. I removed my shoes at the top of the wooden steps that lead down to a small bay and tied the laces around the strap of my bag.

To feel the sand between my toes was exhilarating, I’d never been to a beach before, and I felt the same thrill as I had done touring the skies with Frank. Eleanor took my hand, looked at me and said “thank you”.

Then we were running, kicking thick plumes of sand in our wake and splashing through the shallowest of the rock pools.

“Fancy the sea?” Eleanor asked, and she was already tugging me towards it, a great, roaring, fluxing mass of waters. The waves broke and washed white, seaweed strewn foam across our feet and I jumped, squealing. “Tad cold, isn’t it?”

“Oh yes but- it’s nice,” I smiled. We looked at Frank, and saw that we had run quite a way from him and couldn’t tell if he was looking our way, so I waved. Eleanor snorted with laughter.

“You look so silly, Hannelore, he’s not even looking at you. Come on, come deeper into the sea.”

So we walked into the frightening, beautiful, huge water, until it splashed around our knees and we were holding up our sodden skirts.

Eleanor looked beautiful again, as though it was the country, the coast that was fixing her. Her russet hair didn’t need to be pinned and neat, it was perfect as it was, whipping around her face like the tassels of a skirt as she danced. Without powder, rouge and lipstick she seemed purer, as though a thin mask had been peeled away to show her true self. A walking, talking, laughing, living girl.

“Thank you,” she said, again.

“Thank you,” I said, and then I kissed her. I arched my hand around her neck and wound my fingers through her salty hair, the other held her waist.

Almost immediately, I let her go again, almost pushing her. “I’m so sorry,” I said, my breath coming in quick gasps. I tried to step back but the thick, seaweed ridden water grasped me in its tendrils and I fell bodily into the ocean. My arms waved to no avail, and salty water rushed into my nose and mouth, choking me. The sound of the ocean swarmed in my ears even as I dragged myself to my knees, coughing into my hands.

Eleanor had splashed down to help me as I fell, and we were both soaked, shivering and laughing a little nervously as we stared down at the water, not yet standing up.

“Sorry about that,” I muttered, “I didn’t mean-”

But Eleanor lifted my chin and looked right into my eyes. Hers flashed with the bright glint of exhilaration, she looked daring and dared, like I had asked her of something and she was revelling in the idea of being scandalous and risky.

“Don’t be,” she grinned, and pressed her lips to mine. I could feel them stretch as she smiled and her hand curved around my neck, the other resting on my shoulder as our skirts billowed around us, as though we were perched upon dense clouds.

“What are you doing?” I asked, pulling away but leaving my forehead leaned against hers. Eleanor was breathing heavily and smiling so uninhibitedly that she looked a little scary, like she had pinned the corners of her mouth to her cheeks.

“Having fun,” she said, matter-of-factly. I blinked and smiled at her, enjoying the moment despite the freezing water and Eleanor’s odd smile. She helped me up and we walked back to the beach were Frank was, wringing out our clothes as we walked, the sand sticking fast to our feet.

“Woah woah woah!” Frank said, sitting up, “what happened to you two?”

“There was an incident,” Eleanor said, shuffling closer to me so that Frank couldn’t see when her fingers linked with mine and we sat down, “and I must say, it was quite exciting. You should be sorry you missed it.”

“Oh I am,” Frank said, leaning back again, “fancy sharing?”

“Not one bit,” Eleanor grinned, reaching over to pinch Frank’s cheeks, “sorry darling.”

 “Let’s not leave yet,” I said impulsively, “they can’t be that close to finding us, and it’s nice here,”

“Peaceful,” Eleanor said, resting her free hand on Frank’s leg, “let’s stay.”

Frank stared at the sky, squinting, and shook his head ruefully, “I don’t understand you girls. You’re walking one way in the morning and by lunch you’re walking in the opposite direction.”

“So?” Eleanor said.

“We’ll stay, not for long though, girls. Not for long.”

“Great! Can we go back to the bed and breakfast?” Eleanor said, “Hanna and I desperately need some clean clothes.

 

*

Back at the bed and breakfast, we noticed that the cottage had gained a patron, a young redheaded girl sipping on a cup of tea. She barely spared us a glance as we walked past her, and though this suited me just fine, I couldn’t help but notice the way that her fingers trembled and how the whites of her eyes were tinted a faint pink. Her dress was pure white, drifting from her thin frame in wafts of light material. Dark wine stained the cuff of her sleeve.

Seeing me pause, Frank took my hand and pulled me into the hallway.

“She’s not our concern,” he whispered, “You can’t always be a hero.”

In the room, Frank checked my head again, which felt just fine considering I’d just fallen into salty water, and went back downstairs to politely ask the tenant for some dry clothes to borrow whilst Eleanor and I hung our outer layers outside the window, our gazes strictly averted.

Once dry, we spoke, once again, of money.

“Let’s empty our bags and see what we have, okay?” Frank said. I was fine with that, and the first to empty my measly belongings onto the bed. All that I owned was a few pennies, a chunk of stale bread and its crumbs, the torn up remains of my cardigan and a small toffee tin now containing half a dozen hair pins. I sighed.

“That’s it, that’s all I have. Frank?”

Frank duly emptied his pockets and bag, and I soon found that he had almost as little as me: a few pennies, a toy soldier that he quickly dropped back in his pocket, an old coin that wasn’t worth anything anymore, aviator goggles and gloves.

Frank picked up the goggles and smoothed his thumb over the clouding glass.

“Eleanor?” I said, trying to pretend that I hadn’t noticed Frank’s forlorn expression. I knew what he was thinking, that if he had his plane we could fly away from this place, dreams intact.

Eleanor was reluctant to empty her bag.

“What’s the point, anyway? We all know that we have nothing to offer.”

“But Frank and I have shown that we have nothing, now what about you?”

I understood now that this whole business was just a charade find out what Eleanor had. Frank knew that I had nothing, knew that he had nothing. Eleanor, of the three of us, was likely to have something, anything. Hidden cash or and expensive scarf, but she would never show if we hadn’t done it first.

“Come on, Ellie,” Frank said, “after all we’ve done.”

I thought she would have scowled before tipping out the contents of her bag, but instead she bowed her head and picked out each item, one by one.

Frank looked shocked when she had done. The guts of her purse were paltry, more so than mine or Frank’s. All she had was hair pins, a lipstick, some power and two pennies.

“That’s it?” Frank asked.

“What do you means ‘that’s it’?” Eleanor said, “What did you expect me to bring flying? The Crown Jewels?”

“Eleanor…”

“What?” she said, shouting at me, “What do you want?”

I leaned closer to her, then reached out and took Eleanor’s leather bag, slowly curling my fingers over the fabric. Eleanor stared at me, unblinking as I dragged the bag across the sheets until it was by my lap. Her eyes narrowed.

“Hannelore…”

I turned my head away from her and handed the bag to Frank, selfish enough to make Frank invade Eleanor’s privacy. I heard the rub or the lining against Frank’s hand, then a clink of metal, the sharp exhalation of held breath.

Eleanor had her head in her hands, and her knees drew up to her chin. She wasn’t crying, just quiet, her tears spent on far more serious matters than the deceit of friends.

A ruby glinted in the meagre sunlight filtering through the curtains. In a small pocket within the purse there had been a box, and inside that was a necklace with a thin gold chain slipped through the loop of a ruby pendant, crimson as freshly spilled blood. It must’ve been worth hundreds, maybe even thousands of pounds.

“This could take us anywhere,” Frank said, “first class tickets wherever we wanna go.”

I felt Eleanor’s gaze fixed upon me, but I couldn’t bear to look up into her eyes. They would glitter and she would be silently begging, begging me to speak up, tell Frank that it was far too precious to sell. It may well be a family heirloom, an inheritance that Eleanor prized above her very being.

But I knew it wasn’t. Eleanor was beautiful, her sense of fun was infectious, and she could be lovely at times, but there wasn’t anything that came before her. Not in her mind.

The box was wrapped in a bow, one that Frank had snapped without a second thought. It might have been a gift.

“Sell it,” I said, blunt as I could make my voice as it pitched with emotion, “there’s bound to be a pawn shop somewhere.”

Frank smiled ruefully as he put the necklace back in the box and closed the lid, leaving it in the middle of the bed. “That’s settled then. Today or tomorrow?” Frank asked. I didn’t reply, allowing time for Eleanor to slowly raise her head and murmur, “tomorrow

“Sure thing,” Frank said, refusing to acknowledge Eleanor’s quivering breaths. Her shoulders heaved in a deep, drawn out sigh and she ducked her head back into her knees as Frank stood and exited the room. Once he had left, Eleanor raised her head just enough to stare at me with the wide eyes of a child who thought themselves wronged; cheated, even though they had spilled the milk or torn the dress, then she slipped off of the bed and left the room.

It was hard to believe that we had ever kissed in the sea.

I felt a strange sense of pride, for standing up to Eleanor, for doing the right thing for all of us not just what suited her or our friendship. And yet, as I stared at the blue and silver packaging of the ruby necklace, the guilt encroached, a guilt that was difficult to push away once it had established itself like a spreading disease of the mind.

I took the small box and rested it on my palm, weighing it almost, then removed the lid and stared a while at the piece of jewellery. It was flawless and oddly familiar, as though I’d seen that glinting gem before. I picked it up between my forefinger and thumb without much reason to, just to hold it I suppose, but as it lifted the chain caught the silver fabric it was rested on and I notice a corner of paper underneath.

It was folded up tightly, and there was a message written inside, in the tight, curling cursive of Eleanor.

Hannelore,
you may not have realised but you have provided me with the greatest gift you could have given. Friendship. You are one of my only friends, and you have taught me more than any sister. You have shown me selflessness, courage, honesty and love. This necklace is a mere fraction of my debt to you.
Always,
            Eleanor.

My fist was clenched around the necklace, the teardrop ruby digging into my palm. I leaned down, pressing my forehead against the cushions and allowing my hair to fall into a briny curtain around me, so that I could pretend for once that the world couldn’t see me and that my mistakes were nothing.

I felt the point of the ruby pierce my skin, but I did not let it go. For all I cared for Eleanor, I still couldn’t believe that she was doing something this wonderful for me. The guilt clawed at my throat until it swelled with remorse and tears blurred my vision.

“Calm down,” I muttered to myself, pressing my fists into the mattress, “C’mon, calm down Hannelore. You can’t keep doing this, you have to stand up.”

But the thought of steadily losing the last of those that I held dear like the last, slow drops of water from a glass, was painful.

Stand Up.

I took three deep breaths, then lifted my head, swung my feet over the side of the bed and stood up. I swept my hair back and opened up my fist. Parts of the gold chain had clogged with blood, and the ruby was smeared and dulled.

There was no bathroom in our small part of the house, so I slunk out of the door as silently as I could and went down the hall to where I knew I could find a sink. The clothes that I had been lent were many sizes too large for me, belonging to the woman who owned the cottage. The skirt dragged along the floor and as the sound of material scraped at my mind I hitched it all up in great clumps, unable to stop the memories of Peterson’s from flooding back.

The bathroom was thankfully empty, and I carefully ensured that the plug was secure before I ran the hot water into the sink, slowly rubbing my thumb over the gem in circle upon circle upon circle.

“That’s going to overflow.”

I jumped back, gasping as the necklace dropped from my grip and fell into the water. The redheaded girl was standing in the doorway, wringing her hands and staring up at me through thick eyelashes.

I laughed in slight relief and turned off the running water, which was indeed reaching the rim of the sink, “Oh, hello.”

“Hello,” she said. Her voice was faint, barely audible, and she gave off the distinct impression of a small, skittish animal.

“Um, I’m sorry did you need to use the bathroom?” I asked, wanting to edge around her but seeing that there was no room for it in such an old cottage, the doorway was too small for us both and this large dress.

“No, actually I was just coming upstairs when I saw- is that blood?”

The water was tinted pink, and droplets of red were still oozing out of my hand.

“It’s nothing to worry about, just an accident.”

“Looks painful,” she said, lingering.

“It’s really not.” I plunged my hand into the sink, retrieving the necklace before pulling the plug and watching the red clouds spin into the pipes. I grabbed a handful of tissues and pressed them against my palm. “All better,” I said, smiling even though I didn’t feel like it, “so if you don’t mind.” I stepped closer to the door, to her, and hoped that she would move out of my way. She did so, edging away stiffly.

“Take this,” the girls said, slipping a piece of folded paper into my hand, “I think it would be your kind of thing.”

“What is it?” I asked. The girl looked around furtively before leaning over and whispering in my ear, “a demonstration.”

“For what?”

She rubbed her palms against her thighs, glancing around again, “it says on that,” she said, nodding at my hand. At that, she left and entered another room down the hall.

I shoved the paper in my pocket. I had no time for cryptic demonstrations and strangers, I had an apology to make.

*

Eleanor was lying face down on the bed that we shared, eerie in her stillness. I sat next to her head and laid the necklace down so that she would know it was there.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t know.”

Eleanor sat up and shrugged. She hadn’t been crying, brooding perhaps, but not crying. “It’s yours,” she said, “yours to do whatever you like with.”

I stared at the ceiling, and Eleanor must have registered the utter lack of surprise in my expression.

“You found the note?”

“I found the note.”

“Still selling it?”

“Still selling it.”

“Okay.”

Eleanor lay back down, on her back this time, her legs dangling from the edge of the bed. Taking a deep breath, I sat down next to her and rested on my back too, both of us staring up, the necklace between our ears like a shared earring.

“I’m not mad, you know,” she said, turning to look at me. “I mean, I was, for a minute, but I-”

Eleanor sucked in a deep breath and turned her gaze back skywards.

“What?”

Eleanor didn’t reply, but picked up the necklace from between us and rested it just beneath my collarbone. I thought the coldness of the gem would make me shiver, but the water had warmed it.

We looked at each other for a moment, and I touched the necklace with my fingertips, remembering where the recognition has spawned from. Mrs Gray had one just like it.

Though not exactly the same, I’m sure.

At the same time, we both decided to stare upwards again, smiling.

Eleanor’s hand reached out for mine, and her soft fingers curled around my pale, thin, calloused hand, entwining as one.

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