A/N: So I had a little go at writing an AH story for the New Chapter contest. It was a little weird for me to step away from the supernatural elements of these characters, I have to admit, but I really enjoyed the challenge. So here we are: my idea for my first AH, multi-chapter story. I hope you like it.
The story is set during the Second World War in Jersey. Eric is an officer in the German army, Sookie is still originally from Bon Temps but lives in St. Helier, Jersey. To be clear, by Jersey I mean one of the Channel Islands, situated halfway between Britain and France, not New Jersey, the U.S. state where Tony Soprano lives!
For those of you who are unaware, the Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles to be occupied by German forces during WW2.
So without further ado...
Charlaine Harris owns the rights to these characters.
Gerrybag (or Jerry-bag)1
- noun British Slang
a local woman, during the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands, who fraternised with German soldiers.
[Origin: 1940–45; appar. Jerry "German"]
Sookie – June 1940
We were hanging out the washing in the backyard when we heard the bombs.
My eyes followed the trail of smoke slicing through the cloudless sky, over the town and out towards the direction of the sea. They were targeting the harbour.
The sirens had been quite late today, almost an afterthought, which was strange. Since Paris had fallen to Hitler's troops just over a week ago, the whole island had been on edge, waiting, expecting that we would be next.
"Come on, Sookie," Amelia urged, dumping the basket of damp clothes to the ground and grabbing my hand. She pulled me towards the end of the garden and we leapt into the bomb shelter my Uncle Cope had dug out last year.
A few moments later, I heard my uncle and aunt calling out for us. We yelled to them that we were already in the shelter and heard them running our way. They bundled in, Bill a few steps behind, as Amelia fiddled with the wireless radio, trying to pick up the BBC broadcast above the din.
As always, Bill managed to sidle onto the wooden bench next to me, even though there was far more room on the side where my Auntie Evie was sat. Amelia's gaze flickered to me and she rolled her eyes. She wasn't a fan of Bill's at all.
I sighed. It wasn't that Bill Compton was a bad person, far from it in fact. He was kind, hard-working, and a very loyal to my uncle; he was just, well, a little dull. Twenty-four going on sixty-four, Uncle Cope always used to say. But these days, in my home town of St. Helier, he was practically our most eligible bachelor.
That title used to belong to my brother Jason. With his all-American good looks, his ability to charm the hind legs off a donkey, and his Southern drawl (which only I could tell he exaggerated) Jason had had most of the girls in St. Helier in a frenzy ever since we arrived here from Louisiana all those years ago. Of course Jason, eager to teach Hitler a lesson, had enlisted in the Royal Navy the day Britain declared war on Germany. As far as I was aware, he was currently stationed somewhere around North Africa; I hadn't heard any news from him in three months.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on the sound of the planes. There was an acrid smell in the air, like burning gasoline and charred wood. I thought of Jason and prayed that he was safe, wherever he was. My brother was a testosterone-fuelled fool, but he was the only immediate family I had left after our parents died. I couldn't stand to lose him too.
I felt Bill's slightly clammy fingers snake around mine, pulling me out of my silent benediction.
"Don't be frightened, Sookie. It's going to be alright," he soothed.
He was trying to be nice but I felt myself bristle at his tone. For one, I wasn't exactly frightened. Concerned? Yes. Frightened? Not really. The attack seemed to be easing off and we were a couple of miles from the coast. And second of all, he didn't know it was going to be alright; none of us did. Since the British government had demilitarised the Channel Islands, deeming them too strategically unimportant to invest in their defence, we'd become a sitting target for the German army. No one, especially not Bill Compton, knew what was going to become of us.
"I know," I replied, faking a smile and gently pulling my hand away. "But this kind of thing always makes me think about Jason. I was just hoping he's okay, you know?"
Bill nodded sympathetically. "I wish I were out there with him," he whispered, almost to himself.
"Don't," I said, firmly. "I've had enough of that kind of bravado from Jason to last a lifetime."
"I just want you to know that if I'd been able to join—"
"I know you're not a coward, Bill," I replied, giving him a gentle tap on the arm. "To be honest, I'm glad you're here. Uncle Cope needs you here."
The siren sounded, indicating that the raid was over. I stood up, poking my head out into the sunlight. A tiny flake of ash settled on my shoulder and I studied it with a frown.
"I've got a feeling he'll need you more than ever soon enough," I added with a sigh.
The next day, I took the van down to Royal Square and parked up on the curb. A wooden crate in my arms, I backed into the swing door of the Dog & Bottle, pushing it open with my behind, and easing through.
"Sookie, here, let me help you with that." I heard Sam's voice behind me and whirled around to see him jogging towards me, arms outstretched.
"Thanks Sam," I smiled, handing him the box. "It's pretty heavy."
He nodded, carrying it over to the table and going through the contents: eggs mostly, some tomatoes and string beans, four punnets of strawberries and a large metal urn of fresh cream.
Sam snatched up a strawberry and let out a little groan of approval as he bit into it.
"Hey," I said, slapping him playfully on the arm. "Those are not for you."
"It's my pub. If I want to eat one, I'll eat one." He gave me a challenging smirk.
"Fine," I said, grabbing a large strawberry from the top of the pile with giggle. "Then I'm having one too."
Sam tried to snatch it from my hand, but I was too quick, popping it in my mouth before he could catch me.
I looked over to the bar, Pam was watching us with an amused smirk on her face. Arlene was stacking glasses next to her, her dyed red hair still in rollers under a patterned scarf.
"Good morning, Pam," I breezed. "Morning Arlene... Where's Barry?" I asked looking around me.
Sam sighed. "He's gone up to the cliffs to watch the planes. The Gerries are doing some kind of reconnaissance today."
I nodded in understanding; Barry had more reason to dread the Nazis coming than most. "But noone was killed though? During the attack I mean?" I asked, with a frown.
Sam shook his head and I gave him a relieved smile.
Pam interrupted us, cooing from across the bar. "You're very chirpy this morning, considering the harbour's just been blown to smithereens and the Gerries are on the doorstep. Could it be anything to do with sharing your bomb shelter with a certain dark-haired farmhand yesterday?"
I cursed internally. Bloody Amelia and her big mouth.
"What's this?" Sam asked with a frown, his eyes flitting between Pam and I.
Pam smiled smugly and I narrowed my eyes at her. I knew her plan had been to get a reaction out of Sam. She'd been going on for months now about how he had a thing for me. We were friends, sure, but I worked for him at the weekends and, anyway, he was too old for me. I mean he was too old to enlist even, and I wasn't even twenty-one until September.
"Don't listen to her," I replied, trying to remain impassive. "She's just teasing me about Bill when she knows full well that we are just friends."
"Much to his dismay," Pam quipped, raising an eyebrow.
I picked a strawberry out of the box and threw it at her, poking my tongue out. She ducked, laughing and swearing at me under her breath. A second later, the fruit was propelled back at me, hitting me square in in the shoulder, juice running down my chest. I retaliated, picking up a beer mat and lobbing it at Pam's head.
"You two need to stop," Arlene shouted, waving her hands in the air. "I've just cleaned this poxy bar and I'm not doing it again."
Pam and I stopped, looking contrite, like two schoolgirls being chastised by the principal. I wiped away the strawberry juice with the palm of my hand as Sam looked between us, bewildered.
"Sorry Arlene," we chorused.
"And you," Arlene turned to me, pointing at me with a bony finger. "You need to stop being so high and mighty, missy. You could do a lot worse than Bill Compton."
I rolled my eyes; she sounded like Auntie Evie.
"She could do a hell of a lot better too," Pam sneered. She was with Amelia on that one.
Arlene put her hand on her hip. "Well we all know he's not your type, Pamela, but who else is out there for Sookie exactly?"
I sighed. Who indeed? I guess that was the burning question.
Eric – July 1940
We'd gone to the Channel Islands expecting a fight, but there wasn't one to be had. After a day of bombing the harbour and a couple of reconnaissance flights, our squadron was cleared to advance on St. Helier. We entered British territory without firing a shot, the people watching us nervously from windows as we marched into the town.
The High Command lauded it as a monumental victory of course, but the truth was, these people had been abandoned, left undefended. We'd been allowed in, practically handed the keys.
Tray and I, along with most of the other officers, spent the first couple of nights sleeping on the floor of the Town Hall. Still, we had it better than some of the rank and file, who were holed up in tents in and around the shoreline. We spent those early days searching the island, setting up communications, and generally consolidating our position. There were very few men still on Jersey, hardly any of fighting age, so any small pockets of resistance were put down quickly and without force.
On the third day of the occupation, Andre called me into his makeshift office.
I entered and saluted him, standing rigidly until Private Schmidt closed the door, leaving us alone.
Andre gestured to the seat opposite him and I slumped into it, pulling off my hat and chucking it on the desk between us. I hated that thing; it itched, especially when my hair was this short.
"So what's going on, Colonel?" I asked.
He ran a hand through his closely-cropped white-blond hair and shrugged. "Not fucking much frankly. We weren't expecting it to be any way near this easy. At this rate the Fuhrer will be fucking Eva Braun on the lawns of Buckingham Palace before the end of September."
I chuckled. "Rather him than me."
Andre's laugh mirrored mine, and then his expression changed, suddenly all business. "We're moving the invasion programme forward, instigating a series of billeting in homes around St. Helier. I can't have my officers sleeping in a drafty town hall for much longer or there'll be mutiny."
"I can't say I've been enjoying our current accommodations, but billeting?" I asked, with a sigh. "That never goes down well with the locals." The other alternative was forced labour to help us build the barracks. That didn't go down well either.
Andre smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. He was ruthless, that's for sure, sometimes even a little cruel. His tight-lipped expression make me think briefly of the stories I'd heard about his treatment of women, too many of them to be made up. That said, the Colonel was known among the men to be a fair commander, they respected him, and I'd developed an easy rapport with him over the years. He was a friend of my father's so I'd known him since I was a child. That's why I was allowed this level of ease around him, when no one else was there to witness it.
Andre leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers in front of him. "It's true that the situation may require some... finesse... That's why I'm putting you in charge." The corners of his mouth tucked up into a triumphant smirk. "I thought you could use that infamous Northman charm to its best advantage, liaising with the locals. You can have Dauschen help you. He can speak passable English, can't he?"
I cursed under my breath. This was a shitty job and he knew it. I looked at him pleadingly, to no avail.
"Go and see, uhm... Caroline Bellefleur... at this address." He handed me a piece of paper with an address in St. Helier, without looking up, and was immediately rifling through papers, already onto the next order of business. "Frau Bellefleur has volunteered her grandson to be your guide to all the locals and their properties. She's an old battleaxe but she's not stupid. She came and found me, if you can believe that, and offered him up." He stood up, extending his arm towards the door, suddenly formal again. "I know I can rely on you, Major."
I stood, taking his cue. "Yes, sir," I agreed, saluting him again and making my way out into the sunlight.
Tray was waiting for me outside. "What did he want?" he enquired ebulliently, gesturing with his thumb back to Andre's office.
"He's put me in charge of the fucking billets," I grumbled, not stopping.
Tray let out a loud snort as he walked alongside me. "Well good luck with that," he jeered, slapping me on the back.
I had to grin at his cluelessness. Even if Andre hadn't suggested it, I still would have made Tray help me. "I won't need luck, Captain Dauschen, because you'll be assisting me every step of the way. Colonel's orders."
"Fuck," Tray cursed.
"Fuck indeed," I agreed with a wry smile.
Caroline Bellefleur was exactly as I expected her to be.
She wasted no time in informing me that her dead husband was once mayor of St. Helier and her late father before him. She clearly considered herself quite the Grand Dame of the town and, even if her grandson Andy lacked both the charisma and the intelligence to follow in the illustrious shoes of his ancestors, she wasn't going to let that scupper her plans for him.
Andrew Bellefleur himself seemed harmless enough. He was sufficiently self-aware to be a little embarrassed about collaborating with the occupying forces so soon after the invasion, but he was clearly far more scared of his grandmother than the reaction of his fellow townspeople. I could only hope the rest of St. Helier would be as accommodating as him.
We went through a list of the larger properties in the area. Bellefleur gave us some detail of the occupants so we could match them with appropriate officers. Tray could barely contain his smile when I picked the Broadway farm for the two of us. Apparently, Mr and Mrs Broadway had both their daughter and their niece living with them. Both girls were in their early twenties and, by Bellefleur's expression when he described them, it seemed the niece, especially, was something to look at.
When I'd dismissed Bellefleur, Tray sat back in his chair and chucked his feet up on the desk.
"Nice work, Major. We get the hot girls and, as an extra bonus, it's a farm, so there should be plenty of food." He rubbed his stomach and I rolled my eyes; Tray was built like a tank and always thinking about his next meal.
"Actually Captain Dauschen, I thought that as there were attractive, impressionable young ladies at the Broadway farm, it was my duty, as the officer in charge of this exercise, to ensure that they were not subjected to any lewd advances from the German officers. In the name of good relations with occupied islanders, you understand..." I countered with a smirk.
"Good relations is certainly one way to put it," Tray smirked.
I laughed. "Well, if we're going to be doing this God-awful job, we might as well get to reap the benefits."
Tray nodded, his chest rumbling with a deep chuckle. "Too fucking right. Hey, who'd you give Andre to?"
I couldn't suppress the smug smile that formed at my lips. "He's staying with old lady Bellefleur... And as it's such a big house, I've sent Sigebert and Wybert there with him."
Tray let out a raucous snort. "That'll make for some scintillating dinner conversation for the Colonel."
I chuckled. "I may get court-marshalled but it will definitely be worth it."
Tray and I packed up our stuff and headed over to the Broadway farm.
"This place is perfect." Tray was beaming, practically bouncing up the driveway. I rolled my eyes at him. He was a real country boy, having spent his childhood growing up on a farm in Bavaria.
He was right though; it was a pretty little farmhouse. It was probably a couple of hundred years old and in need of a coat of paint, but it had a huge amount of character. There was an orchard off to one side and some pretty rose bushes lining the path to the front door. I spotted an old Morris Minor van in the driveway and two bicycles were resting up against the fence. Elsewhere, every visible scrap of land was being utilised for vegetables, or fenced off for hens to roam.
I grinned at Tray. "I don't think there'll be a shortage of eggs for breakfast, anyway."
Tray rubbed his hands together with glee as we approached the front door. I pulled the old-fashioned ringer and waited expectantly, suddenly feeling a little nervous.
A man opened the door. He was of medium height, in his early fifties if I had to guess, with light brown hair and the kind of ruddy skin you get from years of working in the outdoors. His eyebrows knitted into a frown as he took us in.
I tried to flash him my warmest of smiles. "You must be Mr. Broadway. I am Major Eric Northman and this is Captain Tray Dauschen." Tray nodded his head politely. "I believe you were told to expect us?"
Broadway raised an eyebrow at me. "You speak English at least. I was wondering how that was going to work." He sighed, reluctantly opening the door a little wider. "Well, I suppose you should come in. I'll introduce you to everyone and then you can get settled."
I nodded, removing my hat as we followed him through the large hallway into the kitchen. He made his way over to a woman with a bright red apron wrapped around her waist; her sleeves were rolled up and she was kneading pastry with her hands. Tray was behind me but I could almost sense his eyes lighting up at the sight. The woman looked to be just a few years younger than Broadway and I assumed she was his wife. She was still fairly attractive with bright eyes and blonde hair which was starting to silver, tied up on her head in a loose top knot.
"Evie," Broadway said, wrapping an arm around her waist. "This is Major Eric Northman and Captain Tray... Dawson is it?"
"Dauschen," Tray corrected with a polite smile. "Pleased to meet you Mrs. Broadway."
She looked Tray up and down for a second and turned to her husband. "He can speak English?"
"It seems they both do," he confirmed motioning between us with his hand.
She pursed her lips, regarding us both carefully for a moment. It was immediately clear that she was the one who made the big decisions in this house and she was none too happy about having us here.
"That's something I suppose." She went over to the sink to wash her hands and looked back at us over her shoulder. "Well, they're here and there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it," she muttered with a resigned shrug, paying no mind to the fact that we could understand her. "You better call the girls in, Cope. I'll put the kettle on."
Broadway nodded. He indicated for us to take a seat at the kitchen table and then went off outside, through the side door. We sat there, awkwardly for a moment, while Mrs. Broadway busied herself boiling water for tea.
I attempted to break the silence. "Are those your roses out there Mrs. Broadway? They're very beautiful."
She eyed me suspiciously for a second, as if trying to work out whether it was a trick question. "No, they're all Sookie's work," she replied, after a moment. Sookie? Was she the daughter or the niece? I tried to think back to my discussions with Bellefleur but couldn't remember.
She turned her attention back to what she was doing, placing something that looked like a woolly hat over the teapot. Tray gave me a questioning look and I shrugged in response. Our silent conversation was interrupted by a lilting laugh approaching the house. Tray and I shifted around curiously, watching the rest of the family as they entered.
Broadway entered first, followed by the two girls and then a dark-haired man. My eyes skimmed over the first girl. She was pretty, in a gamine way, with dark eyes and her light brown hair twisted up underneath a navy-blue scarf. Her eyes scanned the pair of us brazenly, and I noticed her smirk and then poke her companion in the arm.
"Northman, Dauschen, this is my daughter Amelia..." We both stood up and nodded at her politely. "And this is Sookie Stackhouse, my niece."
As my eyes settled on Sookie Stackhouse, I knew for certain that Andrew Bellefleur was an utter moron. He'd said she was attractive; he hadn't said she was absolutely stunning. The first thing I noticed was her lovely blonde hair, almost the same colour as mine, tied up in a high ponytail and accentuating her elegant neck. Her face was beautiful, with high cheekbones, a pert little nose and soft, full lips. She was wearing a light blue summer dress that skimmed her curves perfectly, highlighting a tiny waist and a full, shapely bust. Her bright blue eyes flickered up to meet mine, for the merest of instants, and then they shot to the floor, a deep blush spreading across her lovely skin.
I felt Tray elbow me in the ribs. When I looked up, Broadway was regarding at me with a frown.
Shit. I'd been staring.
The farmer cleared his throat. "Like I was saying, this is William Compton. He works on the farm and lives in the cottage to the east of the property."
I looked to Compton, ready to give him my signature polite smile, but he was glaring at me with such undiluted hatred that I felt myself smirk, just a little. I didn't think it was patriotism that had him all hot and bothered; I'd made the niece blush and he had noticed.
"Right, well," Broadway looked between us both. "Let's show you to your rooms, shall we?"
He led us upstairs, unfortunately leaving the girls down in the kitchen. The ceiling was lower on the second floor and Tray and I ducked our heads slightly, avoiding the beams. When we got to the landing, Broadway paused, fixing Tray and I with a hardened stare.
"Look I'm going to say this once and then I don't want to have to talk about it again. You Gerries are the occupiers, we're the occupied masses, so to a certain extent, you're in charge. I know that. I don't like it but I accept it... But my girls are good girls. They've lived a safe, sheltered existence and I don't want the likes of you German officers coming into my house and turning their heads."
I tried to suppress a smile. His girls may have lived a sheltered existence, but I knew women, and I'd bet a month's supply of cigarettes that his darling Amelia wasn't quite as innocent as her father believed. I gave Broadway a solemn nod all the same and tried not to think of all the ways I'd love to corrupt his niece.
"Believe me sir, even if we weren't perfect gentlemen, which I promise you we are, our commanding officer is of a similar disposition to you when it comes to his forces fraternising with local girls. We'd get into a great deal of trouble if you reported us."
Broadway gave me a knowing smile, and for the first time I saw in him the man he was, rather than the man behind the wife.
"Oh I won't report you," he advised us, eyebrow raised in challenge. "I'll just kill you in your sleep if I find out you laid one finger on either of them. I have pigs. They eat anything, even bone... Are we clear?"
Tray and I looked at each other and then back at Copley Broadway. The man knew how to get his point across. We both nodded, warily.
"Okay, glad that's settled." He flashed us a victorious smile. "Dawson, you're in that room there." He pointed to a door down a short corridor. Tray didn't bother correcting his name and went inside to look around. "And Northman, you're in that room across there."
He hovered for a second, watching me as I made my way along the hall. "Well, I'll let you both freshen up. Bathroom's down the hall on the left. There's another one outside that we also use in the summer. Dinner is served at six and if you want to remain in Mrs. Broadway's good graces, I'd be on time."
"Thank you," I said, and I meant it. He nodded and headed downstairs.
I entered my new room and looked around me, taking it all in. It was a clean but fairly modest space with a single bed in the middle of the room, covered in an old patchwork quilt. There was a low table next to the bed and a small, painted wardrobe up against one wall. The walls were papered in a feminine floral pattern and a large bowl of yellow roses sat cheerfully on the window sill.
I laid my bag down at the foot of the bed and took out the photograph of Sophie-Anne from the inside pocket of my jacket. I didn't look at it, putting face down on the table, telling myself that I didn't need any more reminders of home. With a sigh I eased off my boots, kicking them under the bed. I shrugged off my jacket, chucked my hat on the side table, and sunk back on the bed. My feet hung over the end of the mattress and it was a little soft for my tastes, but compared to a stone floor, it felt like heaven. I was beginning to feel my eyelids grow heavy when I heard a tentative knock at the door.
I sat up on the bed, slightly dazed, and heard the knock again.
"Major Northman." Someone, a woman, was whispering from the other side of the door. "Sorry to disturb you..."
I pulled myself up on the bed, grabbing the photo and stuffing it into my kit bag, and then opened the door. Sookie was standing on the other side of the doorway and her cheeks flushed crimson as soon as I set eyes on her. I couldn't stifle my grin; she was adorable.
"I'm sorry Major Northman," she said, looking at me nervously. Her voice was soft and melodious, but her accent was totally different from the Broadways', I noticed. "I-I left something in my room."
Her room? I smiled at her, wanting to put her at ease. "No problem at all, Sookie. Please come in and get it."
Her eyes met mine, shyly, and she nodded making her way across the small space. I sat on the bed and watched her as she crouched down and opened the drawer at the bottom of the wardrobe.
"If this is your room, where will you be sleeping?"
She raised an eyebrow at me, giving me a pointed look.
I smiled; she was feisty too. "I didn't mean it like that," I corrected, even though I had a little. "What I mean is that, um, I don't want to put you out."
Her nose wrinkled into a small frown. "The German army has invaded Jersey, you Gerries bombed the harbour and now you and your cohorts are imposing yourselves on families all over St. Helier. In the great scheme of things, I don't think having to share a bed with Amelia is that big of a deal, do you?" she replied sharply, turning back to the wardrobe.
"I suppose not..." I sat there awkwardly for a second as she rifled through the drawer. "Er, you're not from round here, are you?" I asked, trying to placate her. "Jersey, I mean?"
She stopped what she was doing and turned to face me.
"Not originally, no," she replied after a moment, as if considering how to answer. "I was born in Louisiana, in the United States. I came here to live with my aunt and uncle when I was twelve."
"America? My mother grew up in the States... Chicago."
She cocked her head to one side, regarding me with curiosity. "That's why your English is so good."
It wasn't a question but I treated it as one.
"I guess so," I replied with a smile. "We always spoke English at home, so it's easy for me. Dauschen learnt most of his from American movies. He's obsessed."
"I like the movies too." I felt myself melt a little as she flashed me a bright smile before turning back to the task at hand, scooping up some books from the drawer. She stood up, cradling the battered paperbacks in her arms.
"That looks like some very highbrow reading material you have there," I teased.
"I like romance," she admitted with an embarrassed shrug. "There's not much of it going on around here. I suppose it helps me escape."
"I like romance too," I joked, flirting a little, testing how she'd respond.
Her eyes shot to mine and she blushed again. I liked it when she did that a little too much.
"I should go," she said nervously, chewing on her lip, but her eyes never left me.
I nodded, giving her one last smile. "I'll see you at dinner."
She slipped out of the room, nudging the door closed behind her. I laid back on the bed, her bed, and breathed in her scent which still filled the room. Exhaling heavily, I let out a small groan as my eyes fell on the roses by my window.
Four days in St. Helier and I was already in so much trouble.
A/N: So please let me know what you think? Do you like the concept?
Also, I've tried to do my research, but if you're from the Channel Islands, Germany, or indeed anywhere and have a perspective on my fictitious portrayal of the facts, then I'd love to hear from you.