There was an urgency about William’s thoughts as he looked around him at the scenery and thought of the lifestyle he’d once enjoyed to the fullest. He was restless to move on now.
It had been at this past Octoberfest he met Helga Schmidt. William had sat alone watching dancers work through their routines while bands beat out traditional and current German popular songs. Idly scanning watching crowds he noticed a tall Teutonic beauty standing alone doing the same. Their eyes met and lingered. William felt a tightening in his throat and turned away. But something about this woman was playing with his mind, he slowly turned back to look, and she was watching dancers now, but he drank her in with increasing interest. She slowly turned her eyes in his direction again and their eyes locked, and this time stayed. William smiled. Was it his imagination or had she smiled back in return?
The memory of this filled William with pleasure and wonder. Why had she done that? He picked up the mirror from the bedside table and looked at his face. It was a strong ruggedly handsome face though in need of a good shave. He pushed the mirror away from him to get more of his profile. His muscles rippled. Despite that he was surprised any woman would have an interest in him as he was a logger not one of those fancy men from the city. Later conversation had proved she’d smiled in encouragement!
William had made his way around the crowd. He was nervous but something was urging him forward. When he reached the place where he thought she should have been standing there was no one there. His face betrayed disappointment and he turned to go back to the side where his relatives usually favoured to watch the show. Then he saw her sitting at a table watching him and she was smiling. He approached rapidly wondering what to say and Helga glanced at the chair opposite her at the table. He hesitated then slowly approached and took the seat. They sat smiling at each other neither one speaking.
Finally, William cleared his throat and whispered. “My name is William Dreseler III.
Helga nodded and whispered back. “My name is Helga Schmidt.”
William turned that over in his mind. She spoke a higher form of the German language than his family did and suddenly he felt she was beyond his reach. He looked uncomfortable trying to think what to do next.
Helga grasped the situation quickly. This was the first man she’d felt instantly comfortable with. Her family had come out of the horrors of WWII and migrated to Canada. Before the war they’d been well off in Germany but were still trying to struggle to establish themselves in their adopted country. Her experiences during and after the war had been so horrendous she’d not warmed to any male outside her family but had instantly recognized in that face in the crowd a person she could trust to protect and care for her through life. Women have intuition that nearly always proves to be correct. So, she wanted to get to know this man more to test her intuition.
“I live here in Vancouver, where do you live?”
‘I live in a small temporary cottage in the mountains where we log as a trade. But I have enough money to buy a house and a business and have been thinking this is the time to make that transition. Maybe after Christmas I’ll come nearer the city as my parents live here now. When did you come to Canada?”
“We migrated after WWII. Our country was devastated by the war and we lost everything. When did your people come here?
William smiled as his eyes drank Helga in. “My ancestors arrived in what is now Canada in the sixteen hundred’s.”
Helga gasped in surprise. “You still speak German?”
Now it was William’s turn to be surprised. He was German, why wouldn’t he speak German? “I speak German French and English.” He was relaxed now, and his life came out in a torrent of words. He no longer cared about the difference in their dialect as it seemed she didn’t. He paused then inquired about her parents.
She shrugged. “It’s been hard on them both holding important positions in Germany before the war but here they both struggle with English so have to accept jobs they hate. I do better with my English and am employed as a secretary in a Vancouver law firm.
William didn’t want this day to end and asked if he could see her the next day of the festival. They spent every day together after that while Helga was on vacation, but she eventually had to return to work. He’d see her in evenings but was monopolized by her parents who were desperate for conversation in their language. The time for his return to the logging camp came all too soon. He asked Helga if he could write to her in German. She nodded and handed him her office calling card and personal cell phone number writing her home address on the back. He promised to write every day and purchased writing material and stamps.
“Can I see you at Christmas and is there anything you’d really like because I want to buy you a gift for Christmas. I’ve not done this before so if I’m asking a foolish question let me know.”
Helga thought for a moment smiling. “I’d really prefer to have a surprise rather than telling you what to buy so you buy whatever you feel you’d like to give me. That way it will be from your heart and I’ll be happy.”
As William sat on his bed enjoying memories of that festival he looked around again. Nothing about the logging business or this simple hut he’d built, or the beautiful view gave him pleasure anymore. It was time for him to leave it all behind.
He gave notice to the company and sold his shack to one of the workers looking for a place of solitude, they paid him in advance, and he sold the snowmobile to another worker. Without a glance behind he left on his motorbike and headed for Vancouver moving in with his parents who were delighted to see him.
It was a week before Christmas, but he made no contact with Helga. He went to a barber and had his hair styled and face shaved. Then he went to a department store and with the help of a sales assistant chose a suit and some city clothes. From there he went to a jewellery store and purchased an engagement ring, he was about to purchase a wedding ring too but the assistant kindly told him perhaps it would be better if he bought his intended bride in to choose that herself in that she’d be wearing it for life. William was grateful for the tip. He knew nothing about what would please a woman but was desperate to learn.
Then on Christmas Eve he showed up at Helga’s home and rang the bell. Her father opened the door and rushed him inside to talk. Helga put her head around the corner to see who came. She saw him and was both relieved and distressed.
“Where have you been? I’ve been so worried about you. No letters no phone call nothing!” She burst into tears then quickly dried them.
“You’re wearing a suit and have shaved your beard off! You look very handsome” She jumped up and down happily.
William stood uncertainly processing her opposite emotional outbursts.
“Can I give you your Christmas present now?”
Helga scanned the room under the Christmas tree then turned to him puzzled. “Yes, where is it?”
He carefully removed a small box from his coat pocket and handed it to her neatly wrapped. She took it from him uncertainly.
“Can I open it?”
Helga tore it apart quickly and gasped. William stood stiffly to attention “Will you marry me Helga?”
Helga leapt into his arms in front of her horrified Mom and Dad. They’d had no close intimacy before this. “Yes William, that is the present I was hoping you’d decide to give me from your heart.”
William shook with relief. This had been a big decision for him, and he was very happy. “I was going to buy you a wedding ring too, but the sales assistant said you’d probably want to choose that one with me.”
Helga was admiring her expensive new engagement ring with her parents gathering around to inspect it too.
“The sales assistant gave you good advice William.” She said approvingly as her parents shouted congratulations taking it in turns to kiss him on both cheeks.
“Happy Christmas,” said William.
“Happy Christmas William mein schatz.” Helga led him to the lounge to inspect their tree.
“Happy Christmas.” Shouted Helga’s parents. “Wishing you both a long and happy life together.”
“Would you be able to come to my parent’s home to share our news with them Helga?”
“Yes, of course William.” Helga ran to her room to get a warm coat and the gift she’d purchased for her now husband to be. This was the most joyous Christmas she could remember. Suddenly the traumas of war memories that had haunted her evaporated to be replaced with happiness.
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