At the End of the World, 1940

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: August 16, 2019

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Submitted: August 16, 2019

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They stayed up together to watch the world end.

Her temple splayed over the dampened sheets in the sweltering young autumn eve. She, youthful as the night, did not know how to feel – to think – about the experience she proceeded into now. What she felt was something more that the courteous hands that mildly skimmed her torso. Each fingertip of his hand brushed the most sensitive areas and she softly whimpered, allowing him to go just a bit further.

He was certain that the rapid thumps resounding from his chest shook the room. Her surety of the floods that poured from every centimeter of his body would soon drown them both, but he continued. When he felt her waters clash with his as their bodies merged, a sense of safety overcame his worried mind. He could feel her heart, just as his, exploding like that which terrified every soul – travesty from above. Plinking over rooftops, desecrating every sidewalk, obliterating everything they knew. It was hell –

It was heaven as he let his lips; his tongue discover another route from her hips to her lingering neck. She lost her control in his gluttonous feasting of her body. She would not be so understanding of most men, if any had ever tried this sort of behavior, but he was different somehow. His delicate explorations continued back down her waist until her hands yielded any access to what he had hankering for after such a taste. She sat herself up and gazed into his sorrowful eyes as though he’d done something wrong. She knew her look toyed with the young man’s emotions, so she let him off as he arm twisted around her body to unhook her bra (though it bore utility, it was no longer useful). She let it slide over her shoulders and down her arms. She watched it fall into the darkness and heard it hit the floor. Her wish was to look up and see the eyes of her lover staring down at her now half-naked body with content.

She knew that these dark evenings would stay just as dark as down in the tunnels. Her gut feeling was that the nights would remain dark for what might be an eternity.

He did not move as she lifted her eyes to his from the fallen undergarment. There was a moment, both locked into the other, until an invisible force threw her into him. Her lips pressed to his, her breasts fell into his chest, her arms clung to his sides as he wrapped around her shoulders, and their stomachs sank together. She released and eased back down to the mattress through the weight of his upper body. She gave no notification of restraint, for she felt safe with him in the spot that would soon become the most dangerous place to be, as it had for so long.

He pulled away from the kiss and followed an already beaten path to her cleavage where he first met her breasts. Neither he, nor any other man for that matter, had ever been given the permission; his lips knew what to do. He lightly went around each breast like some carnival ride, never stopping. He led his tongue between the valley of her breasts. He ran his hand along her spine as he placed his mouth around her left nipple. She responded as he intended her to, with a gasp and an arch of her back. The pleasure that she presented he too felt swarm through his body. First it stole his air, and then sent heated waves of bliss starting at his chest and traveling throughout his mass.

The young man composed himself, changing the expected next move to her bare shoulders. Dainty as they may have been, he had never witnessed something so exhilarating in his twenty-two years of life. He kissed each shoulder and returned to her bosom. This time he traveled to her right breast and found when his tongue touched her nipple it had become hardened.

Distant hums slipped through the partially opened window and trailed fear along with it. They both knew the hums. They knew what those noises brought and what might happen.

His teeth lightly nibbled her nipple before he lowered himself to her stomach, letting his hands follow down her sides. She swallowed the intensity as if it were an expected unknown. She knew nothing of what was to come, in the bedroom or out. The loss of control she allowed herself to feel wasn’t like anything she’d been accustomed to before. The twinge of horror that entered with the hums had no chance of overriding what she felt in his arms. It held a thoughtless assurance within the mouth of imminent doom for their life as they knew it; their family; their friends; themselves. Nevertheless, she felt like even death could not harm her when he held her.

The hums grew near, became louder and the ground began to tremble. She trembled. His hands moved lower, as did his lips. He raised himself once again to meet her lips with his. Their half-naked bodies stuck together and their sweat became one, just as did their heavy breathes seemed to grow and die simultaneously.

The foundation shook. The ceiling vibrated. The bed convulsed. They quivered.

They were up when the world ended.

***

James ran from the Balham Station, the sirens already blaring, when he saw the first plane at a distance. This was the first time he had seen any plane in route to destruction rather just hearing the whistling through the air before impact this early. Most nights he slept in the Underground, the last sense of safety this city kept since the bombings began.  Most nights he was already below, but today, in the October crisp, he had to see Elizabeth.

Her family had a flat outside the bombing ranges, they hadn’t hit that far from the docks and sat in the high end area just outside of London in Muswell Hill. They lived just across the avenue from St. James Church.

That was when James first saw her.

***

The way her dark curls bounced downward, brushed away from veiling the bright smile that shone beneath her plump, ruby-painted lips. James noticed how her pristine white dress fell over her bosom, enough to show she was a woman, but not enough to welcome too many wandering eyes. His eyes did wander though, as the dress did slink over her hip and end just past her knees.

He felt unworthy in his worn slacks, hand-me-down vest and a collared shirt. His spectacles weren’t even clean when he came up this far from the elementary school he taught at to meet his friends.

She exited the church after Mass on Sunday with her family on a hot Sunday morning in the summer of 1940. She separated from her family as she walked to a soda shop in the center of the suburb. He followed her at first at a distance, then as she entered the shop he moved in closer. James watched as she paid the few pence and a beaming smile for her milkshake. He was certain she could have gotten the treat for free with a smile like that.

When she caught him starring, James quickly looked away as though his eyes moseyed for a brief moment as he moved forward to order his own malt. The rush of embarrassment struck his face in rouge and he move forward to avoid any further awkwardness. His quick movement forward and her downturned smile on her way out crashed together with a splatter of milkshake over her formal egg-white church dress. She looked as though she had slipped and fallen in the mud.

“I am -,” James began to apologize, but was quickly silenced by her laughter.

Elizabeth rested her hand on his shoulder as he laughed even harder, “I hate this dress!”

He bought her a new milkshake with the little money he had in his pocket. They sat outside and spoke about everything, but the weather. James knew he’d have nothing to eat tonight except for bread, but he found she was well worth it from the beginning.

This was how romances started James thought, but would soon find out this was neither a blooming romance, nor was it what he would expect.

The second time she saw her was the following Sunday, in which he stole a bouquet of flowers from a nearby front garden to give to Elizabeth, he found her secret. Her secret was as much as what wasn’t divulged to him when they first met. He though himself the luckiest man, until a week later he discovered she was another man’s luck.

The other fellow was named Lawrence, this much James could tell from the way the elders called on him at church. The elders, including both Elizabeth’s mother and father, adored the upstanding gentleman currently evading college to support the British Army. His father felt he would service better as a surgeon, but never spoke ill of his son’s duty to his country and King.

James found that it was always Lawrence, never Larry. The way this man carried himself, the way his brow bent down when one corner of his smile turned up, he did not call for a Larry.

James found himself jealous of what this man possessed without even trying. Elizabeth’s family, like most of the church’s congregation, adored the man. They saw the potential; he was bred into a well to do family that held money as well as moderate power.

When the bombs started to drop, Lawrence was the first to toss his name in to defend Britain.

For James, when the bombs began to fall, he stayed in his class, in the school, watching as his class diminished bit by bit.

***

They held each other in front of the window, naked.

They held each other as the outer wall crumbled, exposing them to the night air. They were alive and more alive than ever before, though the danger was not over. The bombing had not stopped.

He told her to look at him as he gradually kissed her. His hand slid down her nude back and rested on her hip.

She looked up into his eyes as she hooked one hand behind his neck and the canvasing down his back. She thought she would scream if he wasn’t here.

But he was.

He whispered something that she couldn’t make out as she kissed the top of her head.  His hand slid from behind her to rest below her belly button. His ever present hand lie in wait as his uncertain eyes searched hers for approval. She took in her breath as he must have found endorsement to let his hand slide down further.

She clutched him harder than before and pulled herself into him.

She felt the pressure; the pleasure; the unconditional as she buried her head into his bare chest. She pulled him toward her and squeezed him like a vice, tempting evermore movement of his hand.

She told him to him to look at her as she hungrily kissed him.

They held each other close letting their burgeoning sweat come together and spill into the room as the world ended.

***

James and Emily had a wonderful, yet confidential, romance. The simple comings and goings they would sneak away to, whether it be some modest café or a park under a shaded area. Their disclosure was unseen by others for nothing ever seemed out of the ordinary.

The danger fell on Emily. James had nothing to lose with his parents passing away when he was so young. This left Emily the only one to lose anything. She had her parents, her public impression and a future fiancée. All of this would be her loss, and only her loss.

The fact of the matter was that she didn’t mind throwing it all away. She felt like her life had been set since she was a young girl with no attention to how she wanted to live it. She was told to wear the dresses that were picked for her, the events she would attend, and even the boys she was too fraternize with outside of classes. Everything was set and nothing was ever out of order.

 He was her rebellion and her choice.

James knew he had to tread lightly in Muswell Hill. This was not his neighborhood, far from the flat he lived in and he knew that the eyes here had begun to fall on his frequent presence. James tried to make it inconspicuous, spending time in the café or browsing nearby stores.

Sundays belonged to them.

The romantic in the school teacher would set picnics in secluded areas of Alexandria Park. Before church ended, he would set a blanket down and a basket full of cheeses and wine. When he stole her from the church crowd they would disappear into the wooded area of the park where the picnic sat.

The month this affair lasted was the fondest for both, but as all that goes up, it had to come down.

The day at the end of August when James and Elizabeth had met first at a café in Muswell Hill before they snuck away to the park, was the last to ever remain the same.

For that evening, Lawrence followed them from the café to the park to oust their affair. The young man had caught eye of their smiling and solicitous looks toward one another. At first, he thought it was just some poor schmuck’s lust of his girl.

Then Lawrence saw how she watched the other man.

He followed them as they fled into the park on that late August day that quickly sunk into the night. As he clenched his fist and gritted his teeth as he crept into the park, Lawrence knew that everything was about to change, but did not yet know how.

That evening was the first night the bombs were dropped on London.

***

She fell into his hand as he moved it in accord with her body’s sway. Just like the waves beating against the shore, her hips were first calm and then crashed intensely as the weather changed. Her heat with the cold night made for a perfect storm. She mumbled something incoherently, but he understood every word.

She fell into him as he sank into her.

***

The first haymaker directed at James hit him square in the jaw, knocking him on his back, crushing the basket of food. Lawrence relished the pain from his knuckles, knowing he dealt the blow to the chap who was trying to steal his future fiancé. Elizabeth screamed at Lawrence asking him to stop and trying to throw herself between the two men.

James felt the blood puddle in his mouth as he tried to push himself up from the ground, but a swift kick to his side kept him planted. The wind was knocked completely from him and he gasped for air clutching his picnic blanket.

“No! Stop, Lawrence! You’re going to kill him!” Elizabeth wrapped her arms around Lawrence over his as though she was a rope that wouldn’t break.

“Let’s get this straight, boy,” Lawrence ordered James as he held himself heaving on the ground, “You stay away from Elizabeth. You keep your hands to yourself!”

James tried to get his rebuttal out, but instead coughed and hacked in need of air.

Elizabeth tightened her squeeze and looked Lawrence in the eyes, “No more, Lawrence, you’ve won. Leave him alone.”

“Boy wants to play a man. Bloke wants to step into my shoes. A man’s shoes and take my girl,” Lawrence growled down at James, making sure not to meet Elizabeth’s eyes.

Elizabeth loosened her squeeze and grabbed Lawrence’s chin so that everything but his eyes were pointed at her.

“On your bike if you think I’m yours,” she sternly spoke.

Lawrence’s heated stare at James broke and his brow softened as his eyes fell to Elizabeth.

“What’re you saying, Elizabeth?” Lawrence asked.

“I am not yours. I’m not his. I’m not my family’s to be given away. I choose who I want and I don’t want you. Not now,” she said brushing his face as her hands fell to her side.

Lawrence looked as gut kicked as James. Nothing came out, not one word, not one sound.

James was finally able to make it to his feet. Though he wanted to strike with a fist of his own, he held back, because he knew that though Lawrence had won the battle, he had lost the war.

As the day light began to fade and twilight began, the hums from the air swarmed over.

***

He set her on the bed gently and she welcomed him in.

Streets below shook as the explosions continued, ever closer. He shivered as she dug her hands into his back. She felt him and she knew that he felt her like never before. She did not have the words to describe the feeling, it wasn’t pain, and it wasn’t just pleasure, but something that consumed both.

Their legs wrapped around each other’s like that of a vine constricting the trunk of a tree, though mesmerizing, it would eventually kill. The little death, he thought, placing his hand over her left breast as he kissed her cheek and lightly bit her ear. She breathed heavy and whispered his name like praying to a present deity that she controlled and that would grant her every whim.

He seemed to understand her and what she wanted. The way he touched her, kissed her or even breathed with her, made proof that she had made the right choice with him. He knew no other way, and certainly could not feel any different.

The thrusts were steady and the pair converged into one.

***

The streets shook as James and Elizabeth ran for cover while the bombs were dropped from above. Heavy hums from the planes flying overhead were only silenced by explosions. The terror in the streets resulted in screams and howls of shock and awe.

James tried to hang on to Elizabeth’s hand, but between the chaos and fear, they were separated. He found shelter by crawling into an empty stairway of some unknown dweller. His eyes scanned the wreckage through the dust to get just a glimpse of his love, but ended up relying on his ears for any sound of her.

“James!” The scream sounded so distant.

James removed himself from his safe harbor of the stairway to dash into the chaos, “Elizabeth!”

Again his name was shouted, sounding even more distant than before. James ran toward the voice until the smoke lessened and the visibility grew.

She was alive.

She was alive and in the arms of Lawrence as he carried her off to safety. He cradled her like a newborn and she did not seem to fight as he took her to the church where they were met by Elizabeth’s parents. The sight was both full of relief and heartbreak. James wasn’t sure he could ever be that for her. While he was leading her into the fray, Lawrence had carried her to safety; carried her home.

James disappeared back into the smoke and dust. He thought best if he returned to his flat with in intervention.

Time passed and the city fell into shambles, but the spirit stayed strong, if not stronger than they could ever imagine.

Their world crumbled around them as the bombs were dropped every night. James found refuge in the underground, but worried for the safety of Elizabeth. Their safety habits differed greatly due to status – James stayed down in the shelter of the underground while Elizabeth’s family had their own Anderson shelter in their backyard. The status of survival always concerned James, especially when his students would talk at school about who had what sort of protection and who would be here tomorrow.

The bombings were relentless and on schedule. The nights went black to deceive any planes flying overhead that this was a city.

Though the city was devastated, the sense of safety in their tunnels every night was an illusion. This became especially true when the bomb fell over Balham station in October. The crater, which killed everyone in refuge either by the blast or trapping any survivors inside to suffocate or drown, was quickly followed up by a bus delving into the hole.

James was late that night getting to Balham station and was turned away at the entrance to try on survive on the ground level. He remembered stumbling through the dark, angry and scared, to reside in his flat for the evening. Learning about the horror of his frequent refuge the next morning, James felt as though the world was ending.

He thought of her, and only her. He needed to see her, to know her safety and the ease it brought his worried crown. He knew of nothing more important and would need to leave then. There was just enough daylight left to get to Muswell Hill before death dropped from the skies again.

He felt as though his world was ending.

***

Their cheeks pressed gently against each other, his rough face to her smooth one. Both of their bodies embalmed in sweat stuck together, even as they came and went apart. Though he never truly left.

She would shake silently and he could not cease his deep trembles. The simultaneous question to the other on their comfort was met by a sound concord and reassurance of more. She felt as she had never felt before, not with anyone and reached level of bliss that she never knew existed. This bliss did not come all at once, but in waves from a rampant ocean. Truly, Poseidon was at work through her and her lover.

The vessel within the storm shook suddenly from waves crashing against it. The Captain seized and shot the ship even further into the wildness of the sea.

***

James found Elizabeth before the light of the day began to fade and death flew over as it had every night. He found her in front of the ruin of the family home. The destruction of the bomb falling in the street out front of her house had been so forceful the house had fallen onto the Anderson shelter. There was nothing but ruble.

That was where he found her. In front of the ruble. Alone.

He hesitated before he walked up next to her, for a confrontation with Lawrence was not in his cards tonight, certainly not a hand he wanted. When he saw that no one was coming, when everyone was running inside and sheltering themselves for another night of the bombings, he walked toward her. James made it within feet from her until she noticed his presence.

Elizabeth stood, wiped the tears from her eyes and angrily shouted at him to leave. When he didn’t, she swore and spat at him. Her frustration boiled over as he did not leave. She lunged at him, throwing fists and curses in his direction. A few of those hits landed on James’ chest, while the others rested squarely on his jaw. Still, he did not leave.

She exhausted herself and fell into James’ chest as he held her up so she could stand.

“They’re gone! They’re all gone,” she cried as James’ eyes reflected over the ruble.

He did not say anything. He did not ask about Lawrence. In part because he didn’t care, the man was wrong for her. She needed to be free, to make her own path, not to follow or be controlled.

The other part was that James already knew the answer. Lawrence was gone. Maybe he was off to war, maybe he was dead, either way, he was not with Elizabeth. He was gone.

James raised her chin with his bent index finger and looked into her tear filled eyes as she looked at him. He could not say anything for there was too much to say. The thoughts and words filled his mind and could not jam themselves through the doorway that was his mouth.

So, instead, he kissed her.

She did not break or pull away from the kiss. Elizabeth wrapped her arms around him and held on tight. She knew she was never letting go.

As the kiss came to an end, they rested their foreheads against the others’. The held each other and breathed together. The only souls out on the streets when the sun sunk and the lights in the city began to darken, became one.

James noticed the darkness around them first. He looked around to notice that the streets were empty, as though they were the last two alive.

“Come with me,” he said to Elizabeth.

She hesitated as she turned back to the ruble of her once family home. There was no one home, nothing was there anymore. She looked at James, who was heading in the other direction with his hand stretched out, inviting her to go with him. There was a sense of betrayal that swept through Elizabeth as she turned her back on what was her home and all she ever knew.

They ran through the dark and empty streets with only the moonlight to guide them. This provide perilous as the only car speeding through the streets nearly hit them, but also provided a ride when the driver stopped to make sure they we okay. The driver was headed in the same direction and took them the closest he could to the now destroyed Balham station.

As their ride sped off into the darkness, James and Elizabeth had no time for a farewell. The hums from above became near and they fled away into the dark in search of James’ flat.

***

They stood naked in each other’s arms as the planes ended their horror for the night. Watching the night skies through the massive hole in the wall gave both a thrilling sensation. Not only had they eluded death, but their exposed bodies dripping with intimacy were cloaked with the chill of the night.

They clung to each other as though neither was ever letting go. They stared out at the London night together, both were alive again. Elizabeth reached her arms around his torso to rest her hands above his rear, as James draped his arms over her shoulders, pressing against both her breasts and landing his fingertips just past her navel as though reaching out for something more. She could feel him behind her and he could tell her breath changed heavy.

He kissed her shoulder and she smiled.

They were up together when the world began again.

 

 

 


© Copyright 2019 Ryan J Armstrong. All rights reserved.

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