They had lived happily in the suburbs of a town near the border. He was a good and kind husband, and they had raised their only son as a young man they could be proud of. Then, as had happened so many times in the past, disaster struck and they were at war with the neighboring nation. Her husband was immediately called up and weeks later her son was conscripted to defend the nation. She was left alone in their home near the border of enemy territory. After a few months they were under siege.
The battle was more desultory than intense; there was almost constant gunfire for several days and then the shelling started. The artillery fire was quite accurate and little if any damage was done out in the suburbs. Then the enemy entered and overran the town. She waited in fear for the occupying troops and that afternoon several troop carriers parked down her street. Heavily armed soldiers searched and ransacked the houses looking for remaining defenders, but they had fled the day before. When the soldiers reached her house they kicked the door open, smirked at the occupant, and quickly searched all the rooms before moving on to the next house. Ten minutes later an officer arrived with a group of young soldiers in full combat kit. He treated her with utter contempt as he looked through her house and then selected two young soldiers, one was to sleep in her son’s bed and the other was to sleep in her double bed. He warned the woman that if anything happened to any of his troops, ten local civilians would suffer for each soldier he lost, all according to protocol but did he need to make that throat slashing gesture to remind her of the penalty?
After the billeting officer had left, the young men sat in her lounge and stared uneasily at their new hostess, they were in full combat dress and each had a large pack. Reason enough to be uneasy! The woman decided to seize the initiative: “Here” she said in their common language, “put your packs in the bedrooms while I prepare a meal, you both look hungry.” They looked momentarily relieved, and jumped up to follow her suggestion; but when they came back they still carried their side-arms. She apologized for the frugal meal, but it was all she had. There was nothing for breakfast in the morning. The young men looked at each other and nodded, and then they went back to their packs and returned with ration kits, which they quietly handed over. The evening meal was supplemented and breakfast was assured. They ate well, but the tension remained. Already there were screams and shouting coming from the neighboring houses, what was expected of them? The woman gave another command “Come now it is bedtime.”
Without a word they followed her into the bedroom, determined but apprehensive. “Now” she said “undress and get ready for bed.” They hesitated, but were reassured when the lady, herself began to undress also. Not quite what they had expected. The lady disrobed discretely and slid into bed modestly covered. “Come” she ordered the younger youth. He jumped into the bed with surprised eagerness, but the woman kept control. Gently she guided him into his first sexual encounter; he was exalted but willing and compliant. The other young man stared goggle eyed; it wasn’t supposed to be this easy. When they had finished, she turned to him and said, “Now your turn, be patient.” Soon it was over, and she lay there entertaining two young and delighted lovers. After an hour she told them to go off to bed and two exhausted young men went off to their first good sleep for some time. What had she done? She wondered, was she no better than a cheap prostitute? The continuing shouts, screams and even occasional shots from the neighborhood, suggested that she had made a wise choice. Compliance was a better choice than rape.
The next morning the soldiers went off to their garrison duties, they promised to be back as soon as they were free. And they did return promptly, as soon as they came off duty; they had no heart for looting and larking with their fellows. After a good meal, they sat for a while and chatted out of politeness, but it was clear that the young men were eager to go to bed. And so they did. And all was well.
As the days went by they formed a happy family. The soldiers had boasted about their easy conquest to their mates and had even won respect for settling matters so easily and well. From time to time the two men brought their mates to their new home for fun and fellowship, but no one ever dared to enter the bedrooms uninvited; these were respected as private spaces. With so many visitors the food rations were always generously supplemented and they always ate (relatively) well. The woman sometimes wondered what was happening in her neighbor’s homes but nothing was ever said or gossiped about. Her sorely oppressed neighbors could not guess that she might be better off and besides why ask? Surely with all those visitors it was better not to ask any questions or even think how much she was suffering.
Finally the war ground to a halt, the invaders had won and life slowly returned to normal, only there was a different government now. The woman learned to her grief and sorrow that her husband had been killed in the last desperate stages of the fighting. Then she found that her son had been conscripted, this time to work in repairing the capital city; he was still under security and while he was otherwise free, he was not allowed to return to his home. The two lodgers had returned to their homeland and the woman was left alone again. Life was lonely, but things were no worse off under the new government. Essential rations were issued weekly, to prevent starvation and the local industries were restored and refurbished. With so many men missing there was plenty of employment for the women remaining in the suburb. Slowly life returned to a semblance of normal.
Two years after the war she had a letter from her son, saying that he was going to get married. Although his travel was still restricted she had no difficulty in getting a pass to attend the wedding. It was wonderful; to meet her son again with his lovely and loving bride, much of her aching loneliness had lifted.
The next year one of her wartime lodgers returned for a visit and stayed for some weeks. He slept, as he had, in her son’s old bedroom and she was treated with courtesy and respect. He even brought a generous sum of money as a thank you gift for her care during the war. When he finally returned to his home, a young lady up the street eloped with him. Oh, so that is why he came!
Finally the other wartime lodger returned with his new wife and family. All that trouble just so his family could meet his “wartime mother”; again she felt a new joy as her family had become further extended.
She continued to live, more happily, in the suburbs of a town near the border.
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