Author's Note: None of the characters belong to me but to the series. Colonel Von Strohm tells from his point of view about marriage life of Gruber and Helga. And it is not a bed of roses…..
Her hair is a beautiful shade of blonde, highlighting fine examples of the Aryan race. A dynamite bust, shapely long legs and eyes a stunning icy blue. But to him she might as well be a haggard old woman: she doesn't arouse any emotions in him.
The war fleeted by - back then it seemed to drag like a snail for almost seven long years, but now it is almost like yesterday when I was a young officer joining the army in my twenties. In the war I was already a middle-aged Colonel, whose hair thinning on top of my head. One of the most radiant figures I had back then was beautiful young lance-corporal whose powerful name everyone knew: Helga. Beauty, intelligence and craftiness all melded into one female person. Every man wanted her. I still seethe with jealousy whenever Captain Hans Geering tried to be intimate with her, that fool who wore glasses that made him look like a Pekinese.
But there was one young officer who never fell, nor was even interested in any of her charms - Lieutenant Gruber. Born with handsome features, soft-spoken, polite and came from a good old Bavarian family (something that Helga missed in her life) he was the most well-liked Nazi among the Germans and the occupied French. It was almost as if a curse had been placed upon him not to have any feelings to the opposite gender, but only to his own.
Helga worked for Herr Flick, Gruber for General Von Klinkerhoffen. One for the secret police, the other for the army. Both of them tried to satisfy their masters. And just like the police and army relations, Gruber and Helga disliked each other.
Officially, they got on well with each other. But anyone could notice the breeze of a comment Helga made in Gruber's direction, or the soft avoidance from Gruber's direction to give Helga a lift. Gruber especially despised Herr Flick, rarely missing an opportunity to call him a worm or any other suitable description of him when he was out of earshot. Helga never forgave him for that.
Gruber had, and still has, a weakness: Rene the French bartender. Gruber's soft spot for Rene made him blind, and he would make excuses like a battered wife for his beloved enemy. Gruber was a sharp officer, but he would become blunt whenever an issue would concern the Frenchman.
Helga squeezed enjoyment from this by gently pressing her thorn of sarcastic comments on that soft spot. Gruber's defence would then become steel and he would repel any of those words by throwing mud at Helga's affair with Herr Flick.
However, their minds are similar, so they were closer than they thought. When everybody is put aside, and when they would have a chance to chat alone, they are eerily moulded for each other.
When the war passed, (and I still thank the heavens that we passed through the courts with minor penalties), the three of us found ourselves at the beginner's level back in Berlin. Gruber used his resourcefulness in art trade, starting by making bargains with paintings of less famous artists at an auction gallery and then steadily rose to the position of dealing with the goods of most famous artists: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Rubens…. I merely stood on the side helping him diminished from an assistant to eventually his chauffer. Gruber later opened up his own auction house, and it is becoming quite successful.
In the meantime, Helga contributed hers by adding titbits of information and help, standing aside in the shadows.
This lasted for about half a year, until a pressure was placed on Gruber. It all started when he tried to make a bargain with a customer, but the sum of the painting was too great for him pay all of it, he needed to get a partner, or at least borrow some of the money from one of the other art dealers.
The successful art dealers he knew were older men, coming from traditional families and had their polished pride of spending many years in the business. Gruber was fairly new and young man who had an uncanny knack of winning over the customers. They did not look kindly upon that, for it was their customers he was stealing.
They said that issue openly: it was their customers he was taking and now he was asking for their money?
Gruber offered them partnership, but they were a conservative bunch, not willing to share their business heritage that was handed down from generation to generation with a whelp of the business. It was also the time when the war ended, and people become closed-minded to anything different - such as not being married.
'I have a family to rear at home too, you know. A wife and two children,' said one of them.
'And for all we know you aren't even married!' criticized another.
'You're new, you'll find something else to do. We all put toil in this work for many years for being where we are now. And you behaving individually is not going to work,' said an old frog of the business.
Gruber tried to ignore their comments, but they were an influential group. Soon, throughout the majority of the art business it was heard that Gruber was a man of strange habits. He began loosing customers rapidly.
His family back in Baden-Baden were becoming quite impatient that their young Hubert Gruber was not even thinking of plans to start a family.
Gruber began being drawn in and silent. I could see that he was making serious decisions about his future moves those days.
It was only a week later when to my shock he proposed the Helga, and that she surprisingly accepted. I don't know what deal they created together, but it was struck. And a week later, the official marriage was done, and this stunned the entire art world - especially Gruber's family, who had no idea about it until the marriage itself. They were angry and felt cheated that their son got married to a woman they never seen nor knew from which family she came from, and that they weren't even invited.
Gruber and Helga went to Baden-Baden, and he introduced her to the family. They were surprised at her beauty, expecting that Gruber perhaps took something riff-raff. She was also Bavarian, which was good quality.
His family expected a grandchild to emerge from the union, but two months passed by, and there were no news of her expecting fruit. What was silenced on the streets of Berlin now rose up again that Gruber was still a queer who tried to cover up his incompetence by getting married. Helga was being scrutinised by older women down the street whenever she went out and whispers echoed around her. The older women said that it was all Helga's fault because she was barren as a result of her sinful attractiveness. This shook Helga up a lot.
It was one day when Helga returned back home on one Saturday. Gruber and I were in our spacious apartment, and we were surprised to find Helga on the edge of tears.
'Eric, could you please leave Hubert and me alone?' she asked quietly, but her voice was shaking. (Author's Note: In the series they say that Von Strohm's first name is Kurt and by the end it is Eric! I chose the latter.)
I silently obeyed her and went out of the room. I closed the door behind me, but waited on the other side. I personally think eavesdropping is a rather low action, but I really wanted to know what had happened.
It was after a pause, I heard Helga speak - in a low voice, but the tone betrayed her nervous state, ' I cannot go on like this Hubert. You don't know what it is like to be a woman: being accused of everything that is not normal in a marriage-'
'Helga-' he tried to interrupt only to be cut off by her determined confession.
'Do you know what it is like to be called barren?' her voice rose to a higher frantic pitch, 'to hear that it is God's punishment because I'm more self-minded than any other decent woman? To hear people judging me every day when I walk down the street, and to hear them whispering behind my back?'
Another pause. Then I heard Gruber say in an uncharacteristically cold voice, 'If you are so keen to get pregnant, then why don't you go and sleep with another man? It never stopped you before. In fact, I think you are used to it.'
That cruel comment shocked me, and I'm sure that Helga had to absorb the entire radiation of it. Behind the door, I had actually heard her breathe heavily. Gruber, who is really a sensitive and caring man, was unaware of the knives he was sticking into her.
'I am not a tart.' I heard Helga hissing through her teeth, 'And I'm not going to shame your or my name.'
Gruber must have realised the extent of damage that his words caused, because he immediately blurted out, 'I'm sorry. I didn't mean…..'
'I'm not saying this only for myself, Hubert, but also for your sake,' Helga continued, her voice laced with pain, ' If I do not have a child with you we will be in a scandal up to our necks. Rumours would spread about us, and you know how people feed on them.'
When Gruber didn't speak, Helga added, 'And you know how I want a child. And I'm sure so do you.'
Gruber does care about her, though it is never romantically. At that moment, he proved it by offering to adopt a child. Couples that adopt children, or are even ready to have a child, means that they are ready to sacrifice their money and their lives without stress for a living creature.
'I'd kill it.' Whispered Helga with frightening openness, not wishing to have anything that wasn't hers.
It must have been difficult for Gruber to choose the final solution. I'm sure it took a lot of nerve, determination and self-discipline.
He chose to impregnate her himself.
The first time they did it was one night immediately after dinner. I left, and the next day Helga confessed privately to me that her husband took it rather badly. He was reluctant to go along with it, and there was a lack of co-operation, and when the act was done he went to the bathroom to throw up. Gruber ignored her the next morning, trying to avoid her as much as possible.
And so it dragged on like this. I somehow became Helga's confidante, which was somehow ironic because Gruber and she were mine during the war. Helga always seemed like a strong, responsible woman, but this situation reduced her into something I rarely saw her as: a weak young girl.
She said of how she tried to arouse his passions: touching, dressing up in men's clothes…… he actually drank before "making love" with her in order to calm down and to remember the least of the act next morning. Love life for the two was difficult and unkind.
Yet Helga had a spark of her old self in all this. She had some sort of a twisted desire to do all this. In other words, in a dark depth of her soul she enjoyed it.
Helga is a complicated creature; she seems to thrive on pain. Personal pain, inflicting it onto others - all in small doses. Perhaps that is why she liked Herr Flick so much.
That is why currently I am in an uncomfortable situation. I'm currently standing behind the closed door of their bedroom and am shamefully trying to see through the keyhole what is happening. I'm not a voyeur, and this is the first and only time I'm doing it. It is quite a different experience listening to Helga and watching this. This is more frightening.
They sit on the bed carefully half a meter away from each other. Gruber stares directly at the floor, trembling and holding a glass of schnapps. Taking a deep breath, he drinks it in one gulp and without hesitation pours another from a bottle that is on their nightstand. Helga sits patiently next to him, dressed in men's trousers and shirt. Probably her husband's. Her hair is not down.
After fortifying himself with the final drink, Gruber looks at her. Then, whimpering, he seems to be edge of tears. Helga embraces him, and holds him to her, almost motherly, to calm him down. He refuses to embrace her back.
She kisses him. He doesn't respond. She gently pushes him down on the bed, with her on top. When she starts unbuttoning her trousers, Gruber grabs a blanket and covers it over them. He wants to see the least amount of her.
She sits high up above the covers, her lone figure clutched tight by her black corset. The blanket bunches around her waist, hiding everything beneath.
Gruber closes his eyes and tries to get lost into another fantasy, away from this nightmare.
'Rene….' He whispers in passion.
That is when cruelty kicks into Helga. She hisses, almost jealously, 'Yes, why don't you call for that French bastard? Even though he is most obviously banging his waitress.'
Gruber suddenly raises his hand, and fear clutches my heart that he could strike her across the face for that comment. But he never fails anyone: he just clamped his hand to her mouth to stop the vile words that pour out of there. But Helga smirks with self-satisfaction. Her job for this session is done.
After a long time, the act is finished. Gruber pushes her away, as if throwing something filthy off him, and crawls to the other side of the bed to cry himself to sleep.
I catch the expression on Helga's face: that is when I know that she is a human being. Her face is that of hurt at such a careless gesture from him, and perhaps it may show that she has some feelings for him. That is also a moment of her rare kindness - she stays carefully out of contact with him, and when he falls asleep she would pull the blanket over him a little better to keep him warm.
It is in this one session I witness several happenings: patience, coldness, cruelty, denial, passion, gentleness and perhaps a bit of jealousy.
Helga has a ruthless streak running through her, for enjoying such torture onto another human being. Yet, I'm sure she regrets it later on and they will both settle it.
She still didn't tell him that he already made her pregnant. I guess that she just wishes to prolong her fun until she breaks the news.
Perhaps the reason why Gruber accepted to be the one impregnating her was because he knows of what suffering he will put her through in the upcoming nine months. Surely then innocent, charming and kind Lieutenant Gruber must have a ruthless army streak in him too? Helga's fun was then a double-edged sword, and her husband knew it.
Perhaps he's not aware of the perfect backlash he gave her after all those war years. She was a Lance-Corporal - a few ranks below him - whose hobby was to cause trouble for the likes of him, and he in the end paid her back by giving her a swollen belly and the pain of labour while he receives the family pride.
Enmity is difficult to remove.
And those two are of a similar kind. That's why they will thrive perfectly, while I will become a shadow who will witness their difficulties of rising to greatness from behind closed doors.
Author's Note: Yep. A weird, creepy fic that is my take on Gruber and Helga's married life. Tell me what you think by giving me a charming review from the generous readers!