Post 66 – Political tensions escalate as love evolves – from my novel Weimar Vibes

‘Rudi? ‘ Julia Stein asks and I’m holding my breath.

‘Yes – ‘

‘Could we possibly meet?’

My god – of course. This is a very special person; it must be important.

‘Sure – is everything OK?’

‘It’s Saulie. I’m concerned about him, Rudi.’

‘Look, I’m on my way back. I could drop by.’

‘Would you?’

‘Julia – if the traffic’s OK, I should be with you in half an hour.’

There are stripped shutters in the windows at the Stein house. It’s a discreet Islington Georgian place with subtle shrubs in the front that give an impression of controlled wildness.

‘Rudi – ‘ a beautiful, dark-haired woman says when the front door opens. ‘It’s so good to see you.’

She’s got a smile that breaks my heart. Every time I see her I lighten up. It’s my guilty secret: I’ve been smitten from the first day I met her. I’ve even taken to reading the Guardian occasionally, hoping to offer interesting snippets on the sort of stuff that might appeal to her.

‘Come in,’ she says taking my hand. We’ve brushed our cheeks together. My palms are moist and my blood pressure’s shooting up. There’s a short walk to a sun-filled rear living room that looks out over a little gem of a town garden.

Robinia trees sway gently in the wind. The Stein twins smile from a photograph on top of a piano. With their fragrant mother and scrubbed up father in the background, it’s a picture editor’s dream family. The image hurts and makes me wonder where I’ve slipped up.

‘And how is Angela?’ Julia asks.

I’m not sure, but I’m looking on the bright side when I say she’s going along on her journey. Julia nods with encouragement. She understands; she and my wife were friends. They used to spend a lot of time shaking their heads about the state of the world. They would also occasionally go on demonstrations or attend meetings together to discuss the plight of disadvantaged people. Right now though, Julia’s main concern is her husband, Saulie.

‘Could you take him off somewhere, Rudi? Maybe try to cheer him up.’

Of course. We’ll go out on the town … but what’s the problem?

‘He’s not himself at present,’ Julia explains. ‘It’s as though everything’s churning around in his head. I feel helpless, but I can’t explain it. We’re just not connecting and it’s getting worse.’

This is seriously major stuff. My therapist might be able to help with counselling sessions. Julia opens the patio doors. I’m groping for solutions amongst flowers and shrubs in the garden. I will do what I can for Saulie, but there’s still sadness to her lovely eyes.

‘I feel we’re polarising as a society,’ she says. ‘It’s distressing. Did you hear about the fire at the Jewish primary school in Holloway last night?’

I caught a headline on a newspaper poster. It must stir painful memories for Julia. She and Saulie are Jewish. They don’t go to synagogue, but there were family members who perished in a Waffen SS camp outside Prague.

‘It’s all down to low life louts,’ I tell her. Shameless hooligans taking a lead from unprincipled characters who lurk in the background.

‘Oh Rudi –’

‘With a bit of luck, it’s just a phase we’re going through,’ I say with as much conviction as I can manage. ‘I’m sure good sense will prevail eventually.’

I want to believe this, but Julia’s crying. Delicate tears are dropping from her eyes. I open my arms to try and comfort her. The strain is unbearable, because for months I’ve stayed awake at night fantasising about a loving embrace with this woman. The reality is even more awesome than my most tormented dreams.

‘Steady on,’ I’m thinking like it’s a meditation mantra. I’m a solid guy who wants the best for my near-neighbour. The temptation of her enticing breasts is really no more than a tender consolation between good friends.

‘Heavens – I’ve got to get a grip,’ she says, her arms falling away from my shoulders. ‘You must think I’m an emotional wreck, Rudi.’

‘Oh no – not at all,’ I say, pulling back discreetly. I want to tell her that she’s an enchanting angel. Someone I could sit on a cloud with and float up to heaven. It’s a great thought, but she’s coughing and wiping away tears with delicate fingers.

There’s a news item on her sitting room radio about Chileans who’ve been devastated with an unexpected eruption in the Pacific. It’s another of the good lord’s natural disasters: a terrible diversion that demands sympathy. I’m fighting off a tsunami of passion for Julia Stein. It’s getting turbulent inside my head, and my neck’s sweating when there’s a commotion at the front door.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some weeks later, there’s an unmarked police car waiting outside the Cabinet Office. ‘Where to, sir?’  the driver asks.

‘Islington please,’ I tell him. ‘Just up from the Angel.’

I’m thinking of Julia Stein, but my police driver’s radio has something about an incident at the Conway Hall in Holborn. ‘Suspected arson with casualties’. The traffic’s slowing from Covent Garden. ‘It’s the fucking socialists,’ my driver mutters irritably.

‘You mean they set fire to this place?’

‘No – they own it. It’s where they have their meetings. It was probably the Nationalists who torched it,’ he says proudly.

He’s looking at me in his rear view mirror; waiting for a response.

He’s a Nationalist. He’s got one of their stickers on the down side of his sun visor. He shows it to me and I’m back in Germany during the early 1930s. The battle lines are drawn. Munich and Danzig are the initial flashpoint areas. Then, each day, all over the collapsing Reich, there were increasingly violent clashes between Weimar socialists and Nazi Brownshirts. Is it happening here now, in London, and around the UK? In this green and pleasant land that is forever England, or whatever it was the poet guy said?

There’s a stream of ambulances going in and out of Red Lion Square and the Conway Hall is a smouldering ruin. Our political situation is serious, but I need an emotional strategy. If I call Julia, she will see who it is and could ignore me. If I go to her house, she may not open the door. Or if she does, she might close it in my face. Then there’s Saulie. After my piece in The Post, he might attack me. I could call my therapist, only I’m not sure if he can help on this one.

I’ve got a bunch of flowers and there’s a car outside the Stein residence, which I think is Julia’s, so I walk up the steps. I press the bell and move in close to the door. I don’t want her to see me if she looks out from a window, but nothing happens. She could be on the Upper Street and I’m thinking of just leaving the flowers when I hear footsteps. Kitten heels perhaps? Or sensible court shoes? I don’t think it’s Saulie.

‘Hi …’ I say with a big grin when she opens the door. God – she looks good.

‘Rudi – ‘ Surprise at first until her jaw sets. She’s not sympathetic. ‘Why are you here?’

Because I love you, babe. I can’t live without you … we need to talk.

‘Julia … I must speak with you.’

I’m holding out the flowers, which she ignores. I’m expecting the door to close. She was, however, brought up to show consideration for other people. Her good manners are struggling with her emotions. She glares at me before turning to walk back into the house. The front door’s still open and she doesn’t object when I come into the hall.

‘How could you?’ she asks when we reach the sitting room.

‘What?’

‘First you write this ridiculous piece in The Post and then you throw water all over Beatrice in the café …’

‘But …’

‘And I’ve just been listening to the news. Apparently, you assaulted this woman in Athens, where you’re also reported to have made a reactionary right-wing speech. I don’t think we have anything in common any more, Rudi … it would be best if you left.’

I’m in a fragile sailing boat with a force 8 gale coming up. My Neuro-Linguistic Programming anchor isn’t working, so I try the meditation mantra. I’m thinking my sound at the foot of a Tibetan mountain – and yes, I think it’s happening.

‘Julia – I owe you an explanation … please let me tell you what’s happened.’

She’s reluctant, and gorgeous. I want to hold her hand. I also want to kiss her and give her a hug. None of this is appropriate just now however, so I put the flowers on the floor.

‘That thing with Beatrice and the water jug. It was an accident. I stood up in shock when you left the café. I really didn’t mean to upset the table. I owe Beatrice an apology.’

‘And the woman you assaulted in Athens … Fiona McCutcheon.’

Oh Jesus. What I’m thrown by is the speed with which she managed to get her side of the story out. It’s untrue and defamatory, but it was on the BBC news within hours.

‘Julia – this woman followed me into a male toilet. She ripped her shirt apart and said that if I didn’t reveal some information, she would accuse me of trying to rape her.’

‘And how did she get wedged into the lavatory pan?’ Julia wants to know.

I’m doing my best. I give her a version of what happened. Fiona slipped into the bowl, but the flushing was accidental. My elbow hit the lever as I tried to defend myself. It’s not quite true, but I can’t say I deliberately tried to soak this violent woman as she attacked me.

‘And the rest?’

‘You mean my Post piece …?

‘And your reactionary speech … I gather you now favour Plato over Aristotle?’

One day, I’ll get something on this McCutcheon woman. I’ll find a little pointer on how she’s fallen, albeit briefly, from her superior position, and so help me, I’ll crucify her.

‘Julia – I want to tell you something.’

‘Oh yes –’

I’m about to contravene the Official Secrets Act. It’s a criminal offence. I could end up in the Tower of London or Belmarsh Jail, serving time for treason. I’m a very foolish fellow.

‘It’s all a front,’ I tell her. ‘I’m working for the Government. You can, I’m sure, imagine a situation where, in order to deal with the enemy, you first have to speak their language.’

‘I don’t understand, Rudi …’

I’m not sure I do either. It’s out now though. I’m not a fascist. I’m on duty for the Queen. I’m spouting a load of right-wing nonsense in the hope that I may be able to lure a few punters away from my acquaintance Oscar Fuhrer Kerner. If it works, HMG will follow along with the same line. Our Prime Minister will get up and confirm that we’re all swinging to the right.

She’s speechless initially, and vulnerable. I’m edging around the coffee table to where she’s sitting on the sofa. She’s irresistible.

‘I love you, Julia!’ It gushes out, right from the heart. Her mouth opens and closes as I stare into her wounded, doe-like eyes.

‘Rudi … please. This is absurd,’ she says eventually.

‘I’m sorry,’ I blurt, flushing with embarrassment. ‘It’s unreasonable. I shouldn’t be unburdening myself to you like this.’

The phone’s ringing. She’s not sure about answering it, but when I look down, she reaches for the receiver. It’s a friend who wants to speak with her about political prisoners in Chile and Columbia.

‘Let me call you back, Carol,’ she says, considering me from the end of the sofa.

I’m ready to leave when she hangs up. I’ve made a mistake, but she comes back and takes my hand.

‘You don’t need to apologise for your feelings,’ she says, and I think I might pass out. ‘It’s just that we can’t always follow our impulses. Especially when they’re – well, passionate.’

It’s true. I can’t hold back any longer. I’m reaching out for Julia Stein, and she isn’t resisting. We embrace. I feel her breasts against my chest when we kiss. It’s incredible. I’m fantasising, but I imagine it’s what Catholics must experience when they die and an angel tells them they’ve arrived at the Lord’s place in the sky.

‘We shouldn’t do this,’ Julia says dreamily. ‘It’s not right …’

I know what she means. Just for a moment I hold her hand. I tell her how I think about her all the time. She’s the love of my life. I need to kiss her, and she reciprocates. There are tears flowing down over her perfect oval cheeks. We move, somehow effortlessly, onto an Arabian rug. Something else has taken over. The barriers are down. They’ve disappeared. I think we’re about to devour each other.

‘You are a bastard!’ she cries. ‘But yes … yes … now!’

It’s like a call to the colours. I never thought I’d hear it, but we’re there. The stripped pine boards are hard on my knees. The suffering is sweet. We’re together. It’s like an ecstatic symphony. We’re in the throes of our excitement, and the sheer pleasure of it all, when I hear a noise.

‘What the hell is this?’ an ogre screams.

‘Saulie!’

‘You cunt … you fucking fascist arsehole!’

He’s got an Irish blackthorn stick. Julia’s imploring him to be reasonable. He picks up two mugs, souvenirs from an animal sanctuary in Northumberland. One engraved with an otter misses me. It was close, but I get another with a seal on the back of my head.

‘OK, Saulie … look, I’m sorry.’ I shout, holding my bruised skull.  ‘It’s all a misunderstanding. We got carried away.’

I’m the guilty one, mate. I’ll hold my hand up … it’s nothing to do with Julia. It’s too late though. My former friend’s Gucci loafer is coming straight towards my uninsured crowns. I’m not super fit, but I duck. I then manage to grab the turn-up on Saulie’s chinos, which gets him crashing down onto the stripped pine floor.

‘Stop it, both of you … immediately!’ Julia commands.

She’s furious. There’s a steeliness there that’s a total turn-on. She’s holding a flowerpot with a geranium. It’s in bloom, and it shakes as Saulie and I adjust our clothing.

‘I know that anything I say will be inappropriate,’ I tell him … but I think …’

‘Get out of here before I kill you!’ he screams.

It’s scary and I’m worried because he’s just picked up a large pair of scissors.

‘Hey … cool it, man,’ I say reasonably.

‘Piss off, you bastard Nazi!’ he yells. ‘I don’t ever want to see you again!’

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