This wasn’t a typical conversation for them. But it showed how close they’d become, and gave them the opportunity of becoming even closer. After a moment of silence, Frederick said, “I’m glad.” He remembered how close they came to sleeping together. And he thought he’d try again. There were opportunities, times that they had gone out together, dates sort of, during which they enjoyed each other’s company. Obviously they liked each other, so what was the hang-up? He was sensitive, and in spite of his turbulent nature, he knew how to charm a lady. After all he was Viennese…something that should never be forgotten…and naturally he loved to waltz and his timing was perfect but as it turned out it was all for nothing. His intellectual ability was his greatest asset. Still women had always baffled him. To satisfy them he had to play charades. A woman’s place…he couldn’t forget…had been set, but now he saw that was changing. He’d have to adapt. His academic upbringing should’ve prepared him, should’ve, but he was far from being an expert. Now he was faced with a challenge. A modern woman. Modern was the way he described her, but since she was also a socialist she was also direct and outspoken. She didn’t beat around the bush. She made her needs known, and Frederick felt tormented by it because her needs didn’t include sleeping with him. But he hadn’t given up. He’d do something different, in someway seduce her. He’d make it so that she couldn’t refuse him. It became his mission. He saw an entry through her boys.
Frederick kept trying. He kept his fingers cross. He wondered how she could resist him.
On another day Herr Lippert said, “Pauline has something that we don’t have. It can only be described as social duty, whereas we can afford to be generous. You’ve seen her flat. It’s small, especially for two boys and a nanny. (Frederick failed to tell him that he hadn’t seen any sign of either the boys or the nanny.) I suppose that there’s hardly room for anyone else. But how would I know? I haven’t had the same privileges that you’ve had.”
One morning Frederick knocked and waited for some time at Pauline’s door. At last she let him in. Frederick hadn’t seen her in her house robe before. As he looked around to see if he could see any sign of the boys, or the nanny, he was already looking ahead. Pauline felt very flustered over how he burst in unannounced, and Frederick was sure that was over being caught in her house robe, which made him want her all the more. She also seemed to be rushed, which Frederick didn’t pick up on. Pauline, oppressed-looking, then allowed him to sit down.
Frederick said that he’d come over because he couldn’t stop himself. He said nothing else about why he’d come (he always assumed that people wanted to see him), nothing about barging in the way he did: he spoke only about himself. He should’ve asked about the boys.
Frederick looked confident and tried to put his best face forward, and as soon as he began talking Pauline willingly forgave him. He said, “I couldn’t sleep last night.”
She said, “I’m sorry. How can I help? No, no, no, I’ve got to stop that. It’s too awkward now. It was different before the war and in the nineteenth century. We were all helpers then. Not that we aren’t now, but it’s different. I don’t know if you can understand what I mean. You’re a man, and we were bred differently. Now that person has vanished. We now cut our hair differently and more and more of us wear overalls. We’ve had to fill the gap. Maybe if we hadn’t had to maybe there would be less conflict now. Maybe we’d be less aggressive. Maybe. But many of the things we did back then were superficial. I’ll tell you how it was. When I was married I thought I found a man who’d take care of me. I knew from the beginning that he wanted a family, preferably boys, and he got his wish. He had great plans…he, he, he…they were all his plans. He was a proud member of the Honvedseg regiment, and I was proud of him. Of course, he introduced me to his family and friends, and they were all conservative and Christian, and most of them, if not all of them…I mean those who I know who are still alive…are today Christian Democrats. So now you know. When…notice I didn’t say if…when my husband Fritz comes home, I’m sure we’ll be a divided household because I’m sure he’ll be a Christian Democrat. How does that sit with you? When he comes home…not if…”
When her words sank in. Frederick quietly excused himself. There was nothing else he could do.
Pauline was older than Frederick, and those additional years made her wiser than him. She might’ve been in her late twenties, though she came across as being older. The age difference didn’t matter to either of them.