Pauline use to keep track of when she had sex, of when it was safe and when it was not. It had become mechanical and dull, especially with Fritz. She kept a calendar. Gradually, all of that changed until she lost all interest. At an even later stage she cut Fritz off. Sometimes he complained. She wished things were different but … She had always been willing, always ready and that was one reason he didn’t complain about her infidelity. Now that also changed. Now he became angry, and it also affected his relationship with Eva. He needed Eva more than ever. He clung to her, and their closeness was not based so much on sex as on need. And since he didn’t have Pauline (and perhaps hadn’t had her since the war) he thought he had a good excuse for his own infidelity. Eva gave him the attention he needed. Pauline gave him none at all. So he thought about dumping her. Only there was a problem … several problems. He had his boys to think of … his job to consider … and Eva was Jewish. Before he got emotionally and sexually involved with a Jewish woman he should’ve had his brains examined, but it wasn’t so critical then.
Pauline announced that she was leaving for a few days. The news didn’t surprise Fritz. He half expected it, not because she hinted she would, but because it was pattern for her. It didn’t worry him. He and boys would be taken care of. But still it touched off fears that he didn’t want to think about. It always raised the possibility that she wouldn’t return. Even Eva, always level headed compared to her employers, said with a little spite, “Pauline is jealous of me.”
Of course the boys would’ve like to have gone with their mother. But they were in school and to take them out would’ve been unacceptable to either parent. Both parents didn’t want to see their sons’ lives disrupted or want to involve them in a great mess. Of course they were involved. Eva said, “They know what’s going on. But it’s important to keep their lives as stable as possible. It isn’t fair to them. We must keep everything from falling apart.”
Pauline tried to make it up to them by taking them to lunch. Even though they didn’t know at the time that she was thinking of leaving they were suspicious. There was about them a strictness that suggested that they were subjected to suppression. They were teenagers, polite for teenagers and mature for their age but needy. They were the same in many ways, yet different in manner and in ways that mattered. Karl was the oldest, and he seemed a little bit more detached than Niki. Niki was more like his father, but unlike him in that he tended to be explosive. Both of them were sensitive young men.
Niki, hunched over in his chair, chin to his chest, asked in his way, “Going again? Who with this time? Why can’t we go?” But Karl, who was two years older than his brother, wasn’t paying attention. He was more absorbed in his meal. He took his cue from his mother, who didn’t have a ready answer for Niki. Karl knew the answers and understood (actually Niki knew too) that nothing they could say would change their mother’s mind. She closed her eyes and was able to hide the anger and shame inside her. She knew that she hadn’t been a very good mother and thought that there was no way that she could make it up to them. It hadn’t worked out the way she’d hoped. Rather than try to make it up to them she’d given up. She didn’t seem to know that it wouldn’t take much … maybe only a word or two. And it would’ve been easy, easier then than later when the boys would’ve been older and less receptive. It could’ve been the chance they were all waiting for.
By the time they reached home it was a little after three in the afternoon, and they were surprised to find Fritz standing at the door. The first thing they thought was that something terrible had happened; and this made them worry about Eva. And the second thing they noticed was that Fritz didn’t seem upset. But he had to have come home early for a reason, and in that second, they could see that those eyes of his were sparkling. What was wrong with him? Pauline knew … in fact they all knew … that her husband wouldn’t have been home at that hour unless something out of the ordinary hadn’t happened, or unless … but then his eyes wouldn’t have been sparkling. Information comes to us in different ways; words don’t have to be involved; and the most expressive tools that we have are our eyes. But this time the expression Fritz had on his face … the sparkle in his eyes frightened Pauline.
Two weeks later, at the end of a vacation, which required taking the boys out of school, it all seemed worth it. It hadn’t fixed everything by any means, or glossed over the mess. It was a strange event, full of fun and laughter, during which none of them believed it was happening. They stayed in the same chalet they stayed in before the war; this time they needed two suites. And while it was tempting for Pauline and Fritz to request separate beds (when, from what we heard they were barely on speaking terms), they both said later that they enjoyed sharing a bed and never admitted that it would’ve been better had they shown more restraint. But the vacation by and large went well. There were awkward moments, but they were few and far between. The boys, for the first time in a very long time, had their parents to themselves, and as for Eva, they left her behind. This seemed odd at first.