She asked him if he wanted to have Greek food for dinner that night; his eyes lit up like a child’s when he saw the multitude of presents under the tree Christmas morning. She took him to The Cypress, which meant they had to take the tram and get off at the Dom St. Maria, a large Catholic cathedral with the oldest stained glass windows in Germany.
The Cypress, owned by a Greek family, was a couple of blocks away from the church and had been a butcher shop in the past. Ivy vines climbed the archways and walls of the restaurant. In the center of the lobby, a gray granite fountain sculptured into the shape of a Greek woman with a pitcher stood; the sounds of the water flowing from the pitcher were soothing. The crimson glow of the scarlet colored glass from the burning candle surrounded by a plastic holly wreath in the center of the table and minstrel style band playing traditional gypsy music added to the ambiance of the restaurant.
In German Lathal asked their server if they could have a menu in English; they were surprised when waiter, clad in a black vest and matching tight pants, answered them in their native language. Even though the U.S. military no longer had a presence in Bavaria, the southern part of Germany still had a large number of American tourists.
For openers, they ordered pikilia, a variety platter of appetizers; fasolada, a bean soup; and a Greek salad. Their entrees included gyros with pita bread for her and paidaikia, grilled lamb chops with lemon, oregano, salt and pepper served with fried zucchini and potato croquettes. To drink, she ordered one of a sweet-flavored chardonnay while he went with his usual, cappuccino.
She was going to ask him if he wanted to try any of the German beers that the business had on tap but she held herself back. Maybe she’d broach the issue later on in their Germany honeymoon.
Malan tended to shy away from drinking alcoholic beverages after spending some time drying out from alcohol abuse when he was 14 years old. He’d had used alcohol to help him to cope with his father’s abandonment of his family and he’d lost control. Every once and awhile he would have a couple beers or glasses of wine, but he’d never had more than that.
As they waited for their server to bring their openers, he took long, thoughtful sips of his favorite beverage and quietly, “Would you really hate it if I had a mustache or beard?”
Holding her glass of wine in her hand, her eyes lovingly swept across her husband’s face. She wasn’t sure how to answer his question.
As an actor, he was willing to change his hairstyles, have facial hair or sideburns or be completely bald if his role called for it; she knew, respected and supported. His job didn’t give her much say in how he had to look on stage or screen, but she loved him and the various characters he portrayed with exceptional talent, flair and finesse.
With sideburns, his appearance more than likely would almost match James Dean or the Thunderbird gang leaders from Grease. If he sported a mustache or beard, he’d definitely look more mature, distinguished and debonair. These manly features didn’t seem right for a guy his age but were more fitting for a man in his mid life.
“I don’t know,” she said honestly, sipping her wine. “I haven’t really seen you with a mustache or beard.”
“Hmm,” the syllables of the word rumbled thoughtfully from his lips. “I’ll have to show you that photo from my senior year in high school when I had both.”
“Are you serious?” The smile he wore made her suspicious that he was just pulling her leg.
“You can ask my mother,” he said, and then with confidence, ease and assurance still evident in his tone, he made his pitch to her. “Since I’m on my honeymoon, that means I’m technically on vacation so I don’t really have any demands or restrictions on how I’m supposed to look.” His eyes searched hers. “Unless you have an objection, I’d like to grow a mustache and a beard.”
In response, his wife finished the rest of her wine and taking the bottle chilling in the bucket on the table he refilled it for her. He took the gesture as meaning she’d given him permission to do as he willed in the manner.
When the beginning of their meals arrived, his large white ladle spoon took a generous helping of soup. His eyes closed as if he had reached a spiritual pinnacle from the culinary fare flavored with olive oil, herbs and vegetables. He’d only cooked Greek food a few times; it didn’t even compare to this fine Mediterranean cuisine.
After dinner he’d enjoyed the freshly brewed cappuccino their server had refilled his white coffee cup with, he asked, “You think you could teach me some German?”
“Sure. What did you want to know?” She said as she ate her salad, peppered with feta cheese, olives, red onions and cherry tomatoes and dressed with olive oil.
First he asked her to teach him the basic words such as numbers, colors, greetings, food items and other necessary phrases like “where is the bathroom or train station?”, “how much does it cost” and “check please.” Since he had learned and occasionally spoke two other languages, he was a quick study in which he easily picked up words and phrases as well as speak it fairly well. During their meal, he twirled his forks between his fingers. His eyes swept over hers as he asked. “How do you say I love you?”
“Ich liebe dich,” she told him and he repeated it perfectly. “Well done.”
Reaching across the table, he took her hand and tenderly kissed it. “How about make love to me?”
A smile lit her lips. “Mach Lieb zum mir.” Again he duplicated exactly what she’d uttered.
At that moment, their server, who had been notably absent as they leisurely ate, drank and talked during their dinner, appeared. She blushed figuring he’d understood what she’d said in German; the man didn’t say anything about it. He just smiled and asked, “Would you like some dessert?”
They exchanged appreciative glances; he answered with a smile. “You can’t eat a Greek restaurant and not have baklava and rizolago; let’s get a slice of milopita ala mode.”
As the employee disappeared into the swinging doors leading into the kitchen, his finger tapped the table near her plate. “Are all the restaurants like this? It seems to me that meals can last a few hours here and the servers don’t really check on you that much.”
“Unlike the Americans, the Europeans aren’t in such a hurry, and eating out is more than a convenient necessity,” her fork scooped a large chunk of apple pie flavored with cinnamon and powdered sugar. Closing her eyes, her taste buds were tantalized by the decedent dessert. Eating such a treat most certainly was a sin, she thought. “They prefer to enjoy life.”
He could get into that. It was around 9 that evening by the time they’d finished their beverages and all courses of their meal, and then they went for a walk. Most of the shops were closed but as they strolled they window shopped. Standing in front of the United Colors of Benetton, they were entertained by local bands playing in the nearby parks and squares.
His hands were in his jeans pockets, and she linked her arms around his; they exchange frequent and tender kisses as they strolled along the cobblestone streets in the downtown square. The evening was cool and they took in some of the cities popular sites such as the Fuggeri, Church of St. Ulrich and St. Afra, St. Anne’s Church, Perlach Tower and the Golden Saal inside the Rathaus that happened to be open for a special night tours.
Once they were finished sightseeing, they returned to their hotel to change. He was satisfied with his outfit but she’d altered her attire. She wore a sexy short black number and a golden heart necklace; he highly approved.
His hand cupped her cheek as his lips closed in closer to his wife’s ruby petals, giving them a passionate kiss. “So, tell me about this disco tech we’re going to tonight?”
“Mustangs,” She said after called them a cab to take them there as she thought that mode of transportation might be easier than going by streetcar. “It’s by the Falls close to the high school.”
They were going to the ceremony closing her high school the next day and had planned to enjoy the annual German/American Volksfest across the street too; he was really looking forward to it. She was going to show him the places where she’d lived and had frequented in her teen years.
He raised an eyebrow. She’d told him the Falls was a waterfall where her peers frequently went to party, smoke pot, do drugs, drink or make love. Since she was menstruating, he doubted they’d be engaging in the later. Despite that, he knew they’d have a good time.
For a weekday night, Mustangs was pretty crowded; patrons could be found milling around the bar nursing their brews or bumped and grinded on the wooden dance floor. The club, formerly a feed warehouse, also had a karaoke bar as well as sections devoted to those patrons who had an eclectic musical taste including techno, pop, R&B, heavy metal and country.
Over the noisy thudding din, Lathal leaned close to her husband, saying loudly, “Here’s our chance to rewind time and go to prom together.”
In response, Malan grinned, found her hand and gently pulled her onto the dance floor. Multi-colored circular globes from the overhead lights flashed across the surface. A light steam of fog puffed out of the machine clouding the already dimly lit atmosphere.
The DJ played the remix of Level 42’s “Lessons In Love”; her fingers snapped as she gracefully waved them above her head while swaying her hips rhythmically and seductively. Her husband’s fingers slide along the curve of her sides and hips.
After six fast songs by Destiny’s Child, Janet Jackson, Kenny Loggins, DeBarge, Phil Collins and Expose, a slow song emerged and it virtually cleared the floor. His arms wrapped around her waist as he held her close as they gently rocked to Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton’s duet “We’ve Got Tonight.”
To each other in the respective parts for their sex, they sang:
“So there it is girl
I've said it all now
And here we are, babe
What do you say
We've got tonight
Who needs tomorrow
We've got tonight, babe
Why don't you stay
I know it's late
And I know you're weary
I know your plans
Don't include me
Still here we are
Both of us lonely
Both of us lonely
We've got tonight
Who needs tomorrow
Let's make it last
Let's find a way
Turn out the lights
Oooooh-ho, come take my hand now
We've got tonight, babe
Why don't you stay
Why don't you stay.”
At the end, they passionately kissed; their performance and romance. Earned them applause, congratulatory pats on their backs and kind words, most of which he couldn’t make out and the ones he did he didn’t comprehend.
The club closed at 2 in the morning and they filed out after the inebriated patrons. Outside the business, a steel building that looked like a food truck still serving up its fare sent the pleasant and familiar aroma of pizza wafting in their directions.
It made his mouth water, and his stomach growled in response, so he let his instincts guide his feet over to the street side Imbiss. Slapping a green 20-Deutschmark bill on the counter, he was served a huge, greasy slice of salami, sausage, pepperoni, red onion, red peppers, mushrooms and artichokes as the toppings.
He pocketed his change and carefully holding the napkin with his piece of pie he pulled on the cheese oozing around the edge of the crust and drug a large chunk in his mouth. An explosion of bliss spread across his face; he downed the rest in a couple of bites before getting two more pieces of pizza. The second one he ate at a more leisurely pace.
As she daintily ate her section, she was going to apologize to him for the lack of fun on their honeymoon. It couldn’t be that pleasant or exciting for him since they weren’t able to make love since she had her period although she was enjoying just getting to know him better on an intimate level. The rapturous look on his face convinced her not to worry.
They slept in until 10 that next morning; Lathal took him to a local Bakerei a few blocks from their motel. The bell rang as they entered the small shop filled with the smells of freshly baked goods. “Gruss Gott,” she said in friendly greeting to the woman behind the counter and with ease she told the worker in Germany she wanted a couple of pastries with lemon and cream cheese, cheese and bacon rolls and sausage Kolaches as well as two beverages.
Barely out of the store, the crumpled white bag was snatched from her hands and he grinned appreciatively as he feasted on the treats. A few crumbles fell on his shirt but those too went into his mouth. She smiled, immediately recognizing one of his familiar character traits and habits, particularly how savvy and discerning her husband was when it came to culinary arts or cuisines.
They took the tram from the downtown center to the opposite edge of town, arriving half an hour later in Statburgen. After walking a couple blocks down a sidewalk, they came to a tall line of stairwell that once housed military personnel and their families. The first building in a former military housing area she called Cramerton had been where she and her family had lived until her father had been promoted, and then they’d moved to Fryar Circle that was located in the far northeastern part of the city.
Walking past other stairwells, now occupied by German families, they went over a bridge and came to a deserted area. The parking lot in front of the commissary and military exchange were empty. Next they crossed a bridge that went over the highway and took the dusty dirt bike path to the high school.
Out front military vehicles and tanks were displayed and balloons adorned the open doors to the school. Families and soldiers both in and out of uniform strolled down the hallways of the school that would close its doors forever that day. Banners welcomed visitors; displays of pictures, awards and other decorations made the hallways and classrooms look festive.
They walked through the whole school but as they went on the far western section of the hallways, she was surprised to see the lights on in a few of the classrooms. The first room she walked into had been her English class with Mr. Harris. Memories flooded her and voices from her past seemed to swirl around her as her hand grazed over the second desk in the rear in the second row.
Pulling her toward him, he kissed her hair that still had the light perfume of the strawberry scented shampoo she’d used that morning. “I’ve never seen anyone get so sentimental about high school,” he said quietly. “Speaking personally, high school was a time I desperately wanted to forget. It was such a negative experience that I pushed a lot of it from my mind.”
“Hmm,” she murmured thoughtfully, caressing the top of his masculine hands. Her high school years hadn’t been the greatest either but she did have a few highlights.
“Lathal?” A soft voice probed from behind her.
She whirled and starred at Lynne Baade, who also taught English even though the woman had not been her teacher.
Politely the young journalist introduced her husband and Ms. Baade asked her what she was currently doing with herself. “Mr. Harris would be pleased that you chose writing as your profession,” Ms. Baade smiled and then a sorrowful expression clouded her face. “But you know that he died, don’t you?”
“When? How?” She asked shocked.
“Last year. He had cancer.” The younger woman figured Ms. Baade had taken care of Mr. Harris as in high school many students believed the rumors that the two English teachers had a sordid romantic relationship.
“Are you the only teacher still here?”
“No, the Adams are too,” Ms. Baade told her and after handing the newly married woman her address the teacher asked her to write.
Promising to do so, Lathal walked across the hallway with her husband close on her heels. As they entered the classroom, the typewriters were already covered with drab gray clothes. This was where she spent three years working on the high school paper with sponsor Mrs. Anne Adams. Its current state was sad and ghostly condition for the place where she’d felt most at home and accepted in her teen years.
From the office area, a diminutive woman with gray mixed in her short, wispy blonde hair emerged. The recognition in the woman’s emerald eyes was instant as the fashionably dressed teacher rushed over to her former student. The teacher’s fingers splayed on top of the younger woman’s arm.
Her eyes gleamed as Mrs. Adams regarded the man holding the young woman’s hand. “Aren’t you the young man who plays Robin in ‘Caped Crusaders’?”
“Malan Hamel,” A warm ribbon on his lips as he introduced himself and shook the teacher’s hand. “I’m Lathal’s husband.”
“Well, well,” Mrs. Adams said squeezing her former student’s shoulders. “Then I suppose you know Lathal here was one of The War Cry’s best reporters.”
An amused flickered sparkled in her bluish green pools. “Is that why you had me on the home ec beat?” The woman laughed and then re-positioned her glasses on her face as she continued. “You’ll be pleased to know thanks to you I’m flourishing as a renowned journalist.”
Lightly jabbing the young actor in the shoulder, Ms. Adams cocked her hand over her mouth, saying, “She really did it on her own. I immediately recognized her natural talent and potential.”
His pride and confidence in her showed in his eyes and on his lips. “My producers want her to write for the show, but she either trashes or hides her work before I can get it to them.”
“Of course, they do!” The older woman’s fingertips flicked her arm. “And you need to stop burying the gifts God gave you.” The Adams were Catholics too.
Taking off her glasses hanging from a metal chain, Mrs. Adams asked, “Does Bernard know you’re here?”
Learning her husband hadn’t seen his favorite student, Mrs. Adams took the young couple to Mr. Adams classroom in the main hallway. The bald man, an avid skier, also wore glasses like his wife. The maps, globes, government documents and historical displays throughout the room made it obvious that he taught World history, geography, government and civics.
Mr. Adams was pleased to see Lathal and meet her husband; he congratulated them on their marriage. After their catch up chat, the older man insisted they’d join them at the fest’s beer tent. Inside the white tent, an oompah bands performed. The teachers paid for the traditional German fare such as sweinbraten mit sauerkraut and currywurt mit pommes and of course, beir they ordered despite their protests to the contrary.
Raising the large glass steins in salute, they all clinked glasses as they said “Prost!”
When they finished eating, their teachers and the young couple parted ways. Although the older couple had left they stayed and walked around the fest to see what amusements they might enjoy next; most of the rides were for children. Lathal’s eyes lit up when she saw the grab machine and both of them poured pfennigs into the slot and they laughed about how freely they spent on the game of chance because they only won little trinkets.
Moving onto other games, they tried their luck at the German lottery. The goal was to collect certain color combinations or so many instant win tickets. Although they didn’t seem to notice, they spent 50 marks to get the required instant win tickets they needed but Lathal was happy because she walked away with one of the top prizes, a big stuffed yellow bear holding a jar of honey.
The sunset created a beautiful landscape for them as they walked away, hand in hand, tenderly kissing. It was the perfect end to their day.