Quotation Inspiration: Official Contest
|PROMPT: "Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth
or burn down your house, you can never tell."
-- Joan Crawford
They say that when the bombs fell everything was destroyed except for the thing they were aiming at. So it was the last week of July 1943 when Operation Gomorrah rained down judgment on the city. The German city of Hamburg was destroyed and the very air caught fire. At one point a 460-meter tall tornado of fire swirled at the heart of the city. The bombers used the Cathedral tower of St Nikolai, ironically designed by an Englishman, to target their bombs. But though blackened by flames, and cracked by bomb blasts, it still stood in the middle of the bombed-out city, when the angel of death had passed by. Indeed it still stands strong today.
Claudia remembered the scripture from Genesis that went with the title of the operation by heart:
Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens
She had been born in the transformed, modern city of Hamburg, and a new Germany, many decades later, and was now dating an Englishman. How the world had changed! St Nikolai remained, still blackened by the flames that had engulfed the heart of the city, as a monument to the foolishness of war.
Her Englishman's name was Jim, or James as she loved to say because it sounded so posh. She was the only one he allowed to call him James, even though that was his real name. It was the way she said it, he told her, her voice gave him butterflies and when she said his name, it was completely downright sexy. They had met when she was a student in London and started dating almost immediately after.
She did not know why she was thinking about her hometown, while waiting in the London restaurant, now, for James to arrive. He was always late, ever one to make an entrance. His excuses were usually entertaining though.
She turned towards the menu on the table and wondered what she would like. It was quite expensive, however, James was paying, so she could think in terms of what she liked, rather than what she could afford. She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up. It was James dressed in his favorite, rather worn leather jacket, with a T-Shirt underneath and jeans. His dark hair in a parting to the right. She thought he looked a little underdressed, for the restaurant he had chosen for their date, but at least he was here.
"James! I was beginning to wonder if you'd left me for another woman."
James swept his hand through his hair looking stressed.
"Claudia, so sorry I am late, my baby sister overdosed and I had to take her to the hospital."
He looked completely sincere and Claudia was shocked at the news.
"Oh my goodness, do you want to go back, does she need you right now."
James's face broke into a smile,
How does he do that she thought, he fooled me again.
"Kidding, wow you should have seen your face. No, I just missed my bus."
If he ever did cheat on me I would never know
Claudia hit her boyfriend on the arm.
"Arsch!" She always swore in German. Then with a smile, she puckered her lips in their standard gesture of reconciliation and he planted a big kiss on her mouth.
"Forgiven?" asked James
"Forgiven," she said in a sing-song voice.
"Really, that easy, and I had a whole speech prepared."
"Yeah, and what were you going to say?"
James sat down indicating to the waiter he should come over and take their order.
"You in a rush or have you forgotten your speech already."
"You are going to need a glass of wine for this one."
The waiter brought over red wine, on a silver tray and served the two glasses. As he left James raised his glass,
She lifted her glass clinked and then went to drink, but there was something in the glass. She put her finger in the wine.
Is that a ring? Oh he didn't, I am not ready for this.
She pulled out the object in the glass. But it was not a ring...
"What is this?" She drew out a tooth with a gold filling. It was a large back molar. "Is this from you?"
James smiled slyly. "You thought I was going to propose didn't you and you were not ready for a ring so I got some jewelry instead."
"You are right, we just started dating, seems a little early for marriage, kids, and the whole caboodle, doesn't it? But a tooth, I do not get it."
"What is the filling made of?"
"Gold, I guess" She drew it fully out of her wine. It was attached to a gold chain necklace. "This has got to be the weirdest present I have ever received."
"But cool hey, I mean what boyfriend ever gave you such an interesting present."
It was kind of cool, a bone and gold tooth. What the heck!
"Why do I always want to hit you whenever you do something nice for me?"
"Because you know after hitting me you get this irresistible urge to kiss and make up?"
They laughed and chatted easily, after that, enjoying the meal and each other's company.
When it came time to leave, he paid as usual.
"Doesn't it bother you that I can never afford the places you take me to?"
"Nah, money doesn't matter only love and loving," James said that with a gleam in his eye.
"So you want me to pay for this meal with my body?"
James looked awkward.
"You are my girlfriend not a whore, I did not mean to disrespect you."
"Actually I want you to take me home and completely disrespect me, again and again, and again," said Claudia playfully into his ear. "Not because you paid for the meal, rather because I have the hots for you."
"Oh well, that is alright then."
They took a taxi back to James's house in Kensington. As the black cab drew up in front of his home Claudia remembered looking up the market value of his house, more than ten million pounds sterling. Yet he went around dressed like that. She really did not know what he saw in her, nor did she care, because she loved him to bits. James opened the door for her and after he had closed the door she was all over him. She could not believe how wanton she was with James, she was obsessed with making love to him and it never got old. He removed her dress and then carried her up the staircase in her bra and panties.
His bedroom was near the top of the staircase and he threw her onto the bed.
His jacket, jeans, and T-Shirt rapidly disappeared and very soon they were making love. She had never felt so complete as in moments like this with James so deep inside her. He fell asleep, soon after, as he usually did after sex. However, she was still wide awake, still full of thoughts of him, and loving the lingering feeling of having had him inside of her. She decided not to wake him and instead went exploring. She noticed that a gold key had dropped out of James's pocket when he had thrown his jacket on the floor.
A gold key for a gold lock, now all I have to do is to find the door it unlocks.
She searched all the upper floors. No locked doors there. She loved James's house and walking around it in just bra and panties was kind of liberating.
So where is this door? The only place I have not looked in the cellar.
She came to the bottom of the steps where her dress still lay. It seemed colder down here and she put the dress on and then went down the side staircase into the cellar. She had never been down here before. It was dark, she switched on the lights. Sure enough at the end of a long corridor of doors down, there was a door with a golden lock.
Here we go she thought
She unlocked the door
This was the darkest room of all in the house. As she entered she fumbled around for a light switch but found none. She carried her mobile in a pocket in her dress. She grabbed it and switched on the torch function and the room lit up. She would have screamed but instead, no sound came out. There was a woman, in the center of the room, hanging from a silver chain by her arms, she was utterly naked and slightly decomposed. Her mouth was covered in dried blood. Suddenly Claudia fingered her necklace. The woman was clearly dead but she had to know, she opened the woman's mouth. The woman had gold fillings and her back molar was missing. Claudia felt herself having a panic attack, but had sense enough still to run.
Get out of here now, run!
She made it to the hall and heard movement from above. James called from the bed.
"Hey, Claudia where are you?"
"Just getting my mobile from my dress, you know the one you threw on the hall floor when you undressed me," she replied in a playful voice, which she hoped sounded convincing. "Give me 5 minutes and I will be back in bed with you stud."
James laughed and there was the sound of him turning over in the bed.
She ran for the door, leaving it open, so it would not bang, and out into the street. She just kept running.
3 months later Claudia was back in Hamburg. That night, in London, she had found the police station, she had told her story and the police had gone straight to the house in Kensington and found the woman in the cellar, later confirming that the tooth necklace did indeed come from the murdered woman, who turned out to be James's ex-wife and an heiress. James was now under arrest and in a Category A Maximum Security prison HMP Belmarsh.
The anguish of the last few months had been unbearable. She could not believe how easily James had taken her in and deceived her. She had nightmares still about that poor woman she had found. She had loved and lost and it still hurt.
However today Claudia was ready to move on, So she made her way back to St Nikolai and took the lift to the top of the tower. This was the only place love still made sense to her now. The church at the heart of the city was a symbol of an enduring soul, after all the trappings of false love and monster worship had been burnt away.
Her thoughts became prayers, I survived intact, I watched a whole world burn all around me, but I am still standing and from this place.... from this place, in my soul, I can love again. Lord, by Your grace, I can love again