Finally, it’s out there. My novella, set by the harsh, Danish west coast.
I shared the first scene with you last week – Tora Skammelsen leaves her home in Aalborg and moves into her aunt’s old cottage by the sea.
But there is also an old thread, taking us back to 1943, when Aunt Bergtora (Faster Bergora in Danish) was a child.
Meet Bergtora, the other main character. According to my Danish readers, she is as tough as they come.
Bergtora sat up in her bed abruptly. It must be in the middle of the night, but there had been a sound that should not be there. Her ears strained, and her hands squeezed the edges of the bed. One heard so many rumours these days.
Her father jumped out of the bed, and she could hear him fumble with his trousers in the dark. He closed the door between the bedroom and the living room quietly to avoid disturbing the girls.
Bergtora stole across the cold floor and pressed her ear against the door. She had to know what was going on. It was easy to distinguish between her father’s deep bass voice and the stranger’s light one, but she could not catch many words. To Sweden, urgent, Germans were among the few words she gleaned.
She had expected it to be her mother, coming home from Mary’s. Mary was having her third baby, and mother sometimes lent the midwife a hand.
“But I can’t just clear out…” Her father forgot the girls in the bedroom for a moment.
The other man mumbled something, but it was clear that he stuck to his guns. “… can’t just stay and put all of us at risk…”
They continued the subdued conversation for another couple of minutes. Bergtora had put Mother’s dressing gown on over her nightdress to keep warm, and she crouched down on the floor so it could cover her icy feet. At long last she heard the telltale sound of the outer door scraping against the scullery door. Her body trembled with cold, and she yearned to get back under the duvet again, but she had to know what was going on.
Softly she let herself into the living room. Father stood next to the dining table, leaning on the table top. At first he did not hear her at all. She stayed by the door, not at all certain how he would react.
He caught sight of the chequered dressing gown. “I have to flee.” His voice was rasping.
“Up to Mother’s family on the Faroe Islands?” Bergtora asked.
“Yes, I suppose so. If that’s at all possible.” He shook his head and ran both hands through his hair.
“I can pack a lunch for you,” she suggested. “And I can milk the cattle until Mother is back.”
“I’ll probably have to travel via Sweden.”
Deftly she found bread, dripping and cheese in the blacked-out kitchen. Her hands shook. It was so strange to see Father just standing there.