Free Souls, Chapter 39

Free Souls

by KAH

(Produced ca. 1983, revised 2013 & 2014, all rights reserved)

Chapter 39

Werner stood by the stereo cabinet, looking helpless and mystified.  “From the beginning,” he said, “I thought you knew.”

“Knew what?” she snapped.  This was only a play for her sympathy.  It could be nothing else.

“Meine Glaube. What I believe. Did I not tell you from the beginning that we are all one, that to do good to one is to do good to all? That the Christ-spark in us all demands its worship in every way we can? Did I not say that God is all in all so we love and honor God in everything there is? Did I not teach you the power of the Woman Principle in the cosmos?”

“I never liked it. At least, not after the beginning when I was ignorant and stupid!”

“Ist das richtig?” It was a bewildered inquiry, not an accusation. “But only tonight, here, in my arms, you said– ”

“I said nothing on the subject. Nothing!”

“Did you not? With my voice and my kisses I crowned you the wife of the world, and you said ‘Ja, ich bin.’ I said, you are my Eternal Feminine, and you said, ‘O yes!’ What am I to think? I have done nothing wrong. It is what I believe. Can you not believe it, too?”

Sandy couldn’t believe what she was hearing! Oh, curse her presumption in thinking she knew that much German! The very ideas that disturbed her the most, and in her pride she had given them cheerful assent!

“No, I can’t believe all that! And I don’t think you believe it, either! If you did, why did you lie? Why did you say it must be Rena on the phone that time when we both know it was Yoshiko?”

The thrust went home. “Zandra, ich– ”

“Why did you try to convince me I really knew the Wieniawski and it was for me after all?”

“Lieb– Zandra, ich kann– ”

“You didn’t really have a meeting with Dr. Fischer the day you missed my award presentation, did you? You were with one of them. Which one? No, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know!”

He looked drained, defeated. “You know so much. How?”

“Oh, I’ve got eyes. You should have known that, you know. And women talk. They do. Oh, don’t look so shocked, Herr-Up-and-Coming-Classical-Music-Star-Werner-Edelstein! Don’t worry, your little Yoshiko didn’t talk to me. She made a point of not talking to me. No, she blabbed to a friend of hers in the Ladies’ room all about how rapturous she was that you’d played the Scherzo Tarantelle for her. I gather it’s her favorite.”

Werner couldn’t restrain a nod.

“Well, she should be very happy. I gathered she hopes you can come over later. It’s only– what? a little after 9:00? Why don’t you just leave? You’ll be able to make it with plenty of time to spare!”

He remained where he was, silent.

She went on. “And there’s Lise. What were you telling her in the reception line?”

His jaw dropped. “Wie hast Du–?”

“How did I know? Guess what, I saw that, too. You’ve got a good friend in Danny, by the way. He distracted me before I saw too much. But I saw enough. What were you telling her? That there was no way you could get together with her tonight, but maybe tomorrow? Like in the morning while I’m at church?” She thought of the Rev. Watkins at University Presbyterian and it made her angrier than before. University Pres. was on Werner’s side, obviously. Maybe she wouldn’t go in the morning. Maybe she would have a nice long sleep instead!

“Zandra, bitte. If I did not tell you about the others, it is because I thought you were young, you were innocent, you would not understand. Und eines Tages I would teach you how the Love is so groß it cannot be confined to just one, and you would see it and feel die Freude in being part of the Universal All as I feel it.”

If only she could dismiss him as merely condescending!  But he was genuinely sincere, and it astonished and maddened her!  Astonishment was a good thing, she found.  It kept her anger under control. “Termagant, harridan, nag”– all those ugly terms: she didn’t want be that kind of woman. It would give him the excuse to make his crime about her. Taking a deep breath as if the force of the air would hold the fury safely down inside her, Sandy managed to keep her tone neutral. “All right, Werner. You thought I was with you on all that about Universal Love and joy and the spark of God and all that. But please,” she said, hoping her words came out as sad puzzlement, “how could you ever think that I’d even imagine that included your sleeping with other women when you were supposed to be mine?”

He kept silent, and she pressed her advantage. “How could you think that I could be married to you and think it was wonderful for you to keep carrying on with other girls, that I could be happy with that?”

“Zandra, you must understand– ”

“Understand what?” Her façade began to crumble. “Understand what? That you’ve got such a big ego you think one woman isn’t enough for you?”

“But in my– ” he tried to continue, but she wouldn’t let him.

“In your what? In your country?” She could hear the pitch of her voice going upward, and she was losing the fight to bring it back down. “Sorry, Werner, I’m not buying it! Marriage is the same in Germany as it is here! Don’t you go treating me like an ignorant, backward American and making me think it’s my problem, not yours!”

“Nein, nein! In my philosophy, marriage– ”

“Your philosophy be damned! It’s already straight from hell!” She was yelling now, and couldn’t help it. “And don’t go blaming Schleiermacher or Schiller or whomever for your damned twisted views on marriage! That’s your own little twist, Mr. Werner Edelstein. You threw that in yourself, didn’t you, because you think you’re so all-fired wonderful and generous any damn thing in a skirt should get herself a piece!”

“Ach, nein, Zandra, glaubst Du mich! It was only– ”

“It was only those two, was it? And I was supposed to be your wife and be happy with that!” Her words were making an impact. In his face she could see a confusion of shock, realization, and regret. “Why did you ask me to marry you in the first place? I don’t think you were serious about it! You just got tired of me holding out against you, and you figured that would work. Well, congratulations, it almost did.”

The corners of his mouth turned upward to sketch an ironic smile. He couldn’t help it, she supposed. Seeing it only fueled her anger.

“What were you going to do with me after that? Just happen to find out that next week wasn’t a good time to get the ring? Never be able to find time to set the date? Kick Andreas out and get me to move in with you on a fake promise of marriage ‘sometime,’ and all the time you’d be screwing Yoshiko and Lise and who knows who else?”

“Zandra, hören Du zu mir! Listen to me! You have misunderstood! It is true I wanted you to share your body with me tonight. That I did not mean to marry you, that is not true!”

“I don’t believe you! You didn’t want to marry me. I was just another conquest for you, then you’d throw me aside!” She knew she was speaking falsely against him even as the words tumbled out, but she didn’t care. “You never really wanted me, for myself! You never wanted me at all!”

“Ach, Zandra, nein, nein!” He shook his head emphatically. “Ich wollte Dich. Ever since we met I have wanted you. From then I have said to myself, ‘Werner Edelstein, daß schöne Amerikanische Mädchen will be thy wife.”

His face, his voice, every line of his body spoke of grief and repentance. For a moment, the newborn love she thought she’d strangled in its crib revived and she nearly relented. He must have seen the softening look in her face, for he went on, gently, “It was not a bad thing that you would not sleep with me all this time. I knew I could wait for you. I knew you would be mine, ich wußte es!”

He had pressed his advantage too far. “Oh, yes,” she said, “I can believe that. You wanted me, and Lise, and Yoshiko, and who knows how many other girls, all in the name of your philosophy!”

“You alone are my bride,” he said, coming close and laying a tentative hand on her arm. She stiffened and flinched back as though she had been whipped.

“Don’t touch me! I am not your bride! I won’t be queen consort in your filthy harem! I thought you were a Christian,” she said bitterly, “not some entitled pagan king or something.”

“I am a Christian,” he replied. “As Gott ist Vater of all and Christ is Brother of all, I am a Christian. Do I not believe in love to all?”

She kept silent. If he thought that was all Christianity was about, it was too late now for her to enlighten him.

“Zandra, as a Christian . . . as . . . as the one who would be– who wanted to be– your husband, bitte, listen to me. Since I have met you, you were first, first in my heart. Vielleicht I was foolish; ja, I was foolish, to think I could continue to see the other girls . . . ”

“‘To continue’?” she wondered.  For the first time it struck her how Yoshiko and Lise must have felt seeing her with him, welded to his side that afternoon after his recital. How angry must they be! Had they known about her before today? Did they even know about each other?

“That makes it even worse!” she nearly screamed, responding to her thought more than to his words. “You weren’t free when we started dating! You made me participate in your unfaithfulness, you made me– !”

For the first time since matters had gone wrong that evening Werner met her force with force. “Sei ruhig!” he nearly thundered. “Be quiet and hear me! You do not know what those other girls are to me, or what they are not. What you must know is what you are to me!

“Zandra, once again I ask you to believe me. No other woman have I introduced as my girlfriend.”

She recalled Dr. Fischer’s look of surprise when Werner had done that very thing that afternoon, but held her tongue. It might be the strict truth.

“No other woman have I honored with words of love. No other woman have I asked to marry me.” He was looking at her with such indescribable yearning and tenderness that her heart was wrung within her breast. “You are angry with me. You are right to be angry with me. I was wrong to assume so much. But your anger tells me this: You do still love me. Ach! I have startled you. Nein, you have not said so in so many words. But you cannot say it is not true. If it were not true, you would not care.”

It was Sandy’s turn to look helplessly at the floor. It was true. It was not hate, but wounded love that kept her on the attack, that wanted to give hurt for hurt. An absurd, ridiculous hope rose up in her, whispering that their future together could be salvaged after all, that they could get past this difficulty and things would turn out all right.

“Zandra,” he said again, “you are first with me. You will always be first with me, I swear it. As no other woman has been with me here in this apartment. No other woman have I held in my arms here, to listen to the great ones of my art. This is what you must believe.”

He clearly meant it to be the closing argument in his appeal. Her heart had been leaning towards reconciliation, and he knew it. But at his words a mental image rose up, and like the tide turning the love that had been flooding back into her heart changed instantly into towering fury. “No other woman has been with you here,” she challenged as the red-black emotion welled up in her. “Is that what you say?”

“Ja,” he responded, a look of confusion on his lean face.

“Then what is this!” She darted to the futon-bed and snatched off the India print bedspread and flung it to the floor. Underneath, the darker brown of the stain on the tan cover seemed to smirk up at them, like a conscienceless malefactor long dead to feelings of guilt. “What is this?

“She’s been here with you, hasn’t she? Yoshiko. She’s Japanese, like this futon. It was her idea to get it, wasn’t it? You got it for her, didn’t you, didn’t you? So you could screw her on it while I was at Studio and all the time you’re letting me think I’m something special to you, that I was– ”

“Nein! Nein!” he cut across her accusation. To her surprise he didn’t give in to it. “No! That is not true! Yoshiko has not been here, never! Du hast Recht, the futon is not new. It belonged to another student am Konservatorium, he wanted to sell it. The stain, it made it cost not so many dollars. I do not know what it is. Yoshiko knows nothing about it. It is not true!”

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