Authors: Alisa Grey
ROCKED BY THE WAVES
ROCKED BY THE WAVES
by ALISA GREY.
It is forbidden to duplicate, even partially, this book.
No part of it should be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author. Exception made for brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book contains adult content and is intended for adult readers.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For information and contacts: [email protected]
Italian to English Translation: Giulia Mastrantoni
Original title: Cullata dalle onde
© Copyright 2016
This book is dedicated to the man who has always supported me in all choices of my life... my husband
I’m in the woods and I am hungry. Really hungry. I’m also cold. Really cold. Mom passed away and so did dad, but I made friends with somebody. It’s a big good-eyed dog that doesn’t let other animals come around, so I’m not scared... not anymore.
I can hear voices getting nearer and nearer. I have no idea whose they are, but mom told me not to talk to strangers.
As a man approaches, the dog growls. The man talks to the dog, though, and the latter goes away.
The man is asking me many questions... at least, I believe so. I don’t understand what he says, but mom told me not to talk to strangers, so I don’t make any effort to reply.
I don’t want to talk to anybody, but many men approach me. They try to take me away, while I scream and kick. They are stronger and bigger than me, so, in the end, I have no choice but to surrender.
They take me to the hospital. The place is packed with white-dressed ladies asking me in a soft voice how I feel. I’m not acquainted with them, though, so I don’t answer. I don’t answer to the doctor either. To be completely honest, I don’t understand what they say. At all. It’s frustrating.
I’ve been taught compassion and tolerance, but I can’t help it, I’m not in the mood to be kind. I feel lost and angry. I just can’t help myself. I don’t want to talk to anybody.
I’m in a convent now. The nuns are very nice to me.
«Dear boy, I am Sister Mary and we are in a convent. Where are your parents? Can you recall their names? »
I don’t understand a single word and have no intention to talk to her. She’s kind, though.
«It doesn’t matter. Whenever you feel like it, I’ll be here to talk to you. I’ll always be here. There’s just no rush».
INQUISITIVE FRIENDS ARE THE BEST
“I’ve learned that I can’t demand anyone’s love. I can only give good reasons to like me and be patient to life make the rest…”
It was a hot and sunny Friday afternoon in London. It was one of those early spring days that put the long wintry months to an end.
Lizzie and I were sitting on the veranda, enjoying the warmth and talking about the fundraising of the week. We had collected a fairly good amount of money and on the following day we would split it among the needy families living in the poorest neighbourhoods of London. We would be giving some of the money to young women in need as well.
We had decided to take special care of young unmarried mothers belonging to the lowest social classes. They didn’t stand many chances to get a respectable job, furthermore they had no money and no medical assistance. Their children were condemned to a life of struggles and, quite commonly, to prostitution. Those who got lucky could become apprentices and learn a fairly-paid job. Lizzie, our friends and I had therefore funded a small association that collected clothes, shoes, medicines, food and even money, though not on a regular basis. The money was meant to provide necessity goods. There were plenty of these last, so the money was never enough. Sometimes we got lucky, though, and could pay school fees for a few children. We had quite a good social position, which allowed us to meet with the upper class and ask for donations. It was crucial to us. And it was crucial to rich people as well, because they were given the possibility to show sort of a Christianity towards the homeless. To be truthful, in everyday life poor people weren’t a priority at all, to the rich. These last were preoccupied with fashion and they were altogether too busy with hypocrisy to really care for the homeless. The association even had a little office where, from time to time, a young mother brought her baby begging us for help. We used to help young mothers learn sewing, baking or something like that. It was not much, but still it would help them out.
I had known Lizzie forever. She had been my best friend since infancy. We both lived in Myfair, not far from each other. Lizzie had been in love with my beautiful brother for ten years, which was since she was a little girl. She had never told him and Renny had never suspected it.
Renny was my beloved and beautiful brother, the only person I used to turn to when I was in need of an advice. He was really supportive, even when I came up with nonsensical ideas. I once told him I wanted to become a singer. I’m tone-deaf, though. Still, he showed me support and love. We used to understand each other perfectly well.
Renny was an incredibly beautiful young man. He was dark-haired, and his blue eyes made me think of the sea. He was athletic, elegant and gentle. Every girl was crazy about him and there was always plenty of young ladies coming to our house. They pretended to be interested in charity, but at some point they always asked: «Isn’t Reginald home?». Their interest in helping homeless children and women was quite poor.
Even if Renny had been home – he sometimes was, actually -, he wouldn’t have noticed any of the girls because he was already in love with someone. He was in love with Robert and I was happy about that because I liked him very much. He was a loyal, friendly and loving life companion.
As it concerned me, I can’t really say I was in love with anybody. I was eighteen, I had plenty of things to take care of and marriage wasn’t a priority at all. Marriage was something that confirmed and strengthened our patriarchal social structure. It was true, a girl could improve her social position through marriage - and many did -, but it seldom had anything to do with love. It was based on personal interests, mainly. Therefore, prostitution was very common and men took extensive advantage of that.
I felt like I was a young, modern woman. I had been taught love and support were the most important things in life, so I used to pursue them. They were at the very heart of my actions and reflections.
«I bumped into the twins this morning, Claire. They told me that their mother’s good connections have been giving them a fairly good amount of money. Nora has convinced her dad to donate some old clothes. They should have been thrown away by the end of the week, anyway. They are not fashionable - not a bit – and they surely are very old, but they are warm and resistant. Did you talk to James? Is he taking us to Whitechapel tomorrow? The Reverend will be waiting for us and I’m sure he will be very pleased to meet us both. But we can’t go unchaperoned. It’s such a scary neighbourhood and we will have plenty of stuff to take with us. Are you listening to me, Claire? Claire, this morning I bumped into some awful one-eyed man. His only eye was in the middle of his forehead. But I fell for him, I love him and I can’t wait to marry him as soon as he proposes... Claire Thompson, are you home? Have you been listening to me?». That’s what Lizzie was like. Once she had started chattering, there was no stopping her.
«Who’s getting married again?»
«Claire, you were not paying attention. You were daydreaming again.»
«No! I mean, yes! I didn’t pay attention, but I was thinking of Mrs Jones. She’s married to a lovely man, they have two marvellous children, they are a lovely family... and guess what? Two days ago she run away. She went to Paris and she didn’t even write a note to her husband. It is said that she has a French lover... they have met during a shopping trip over there. How can you quit such a loving husband and two little boys? They say the lover is charming and kind, but he doesn’t have a penny».
«Claire, you can talk like that because you’re a beautiful and charming young woman. You don’t need to seduce men, because your dark hair and your big blue eyes could charm anybody without you making any effort. You have a perfect skin, those long and skinny legs... I should hate you, you know that? You’re not even aware of that. I’m so short… and I’m so curvy. And my hair, oh, God... I can’t even talk about that.»
«Lizzie, you don’t know what you are talking about. Men love curvy ladies. You look like a doll. I am 175 cm tall, I’m even taller than the majority of the men I know! I don’t care about that, but I feel... clumsy.»
«Men must be into clumsy women, then. I should have thought of that so long ago! We should ask James if clumsiness is his favourite thing about you.»
«What has James to do with all of this? We’re just friends and he never seemed to be into me. He’s always by my side and he helps us, right?»
«Right. He is always by your side. He always takes you everywhere you want to go. I might as well not be there, he wouldn’t even notice. You are the one he cares for. You just don’t get men, Claire. Oh, speaking of men... where’s your brother?»
«Off with dad. Some cargo from India arrived today. It was expected much earlier, but there’s been a storm so they got here today... half of the shipload had already been sold, though, so they must check on the damages. They’ll be working at least for two days».
«What a shame. But look who’s coming. It’s James. Let’s ask him his opinion about clumsy women. He might help me out, right?»
«Lizzie! Please, behave. Just don’t do it».
«Behave, eh? We shall see about that».
«Hi, James! We were talking about you!»
James greeted us politely, a big smile on his face.
«Good afternoon, ladies. What was so funny, then, if I may ask?»
«Nothing at all, James. We were talking about tomorrow... Will you come with us to Whitechapel?», Lizzie asked. James was staring at me intensely.
«Claire, you know pretty well I wouldn’t let you go alone. It’s too dangerous».
Lizzie was smiling. Of course she was. She had made the question, but James had answered to me.
Whitechapel was a neighbourhood in East London, just outside the City. It was located near the harbor and you could smell the dirt of river Tames in the air. Everyone working there lived in rather unhealthy warehouses, if not in factories. Hygiene was very poor in both cases. The luckiest lived in small apartments, sharing the place with another family. The poverty was dreadful.
Whitechapel was rich in breweries, tanneries and slaughterhouses, but the people were so poor that the meat was a luxury good all the same. It was destined to those who worked especially hard. Prostitution and children’s exploitation were both extensive, and so was crime. Two young women such as Lizzie and I were sure to draw the attention upon themselves. Therefore, James’presence was highly recommended. Furthermore, James’ father owned a very important textile factory nearby, so he was accustomed to meeting the working class from there. Many of the people we would meet worked for his father, actually, so they would be working for James, sooner or later.
By then, London was the economic centre of the world. The City was much more important than Paris or New York. Industries were in constant growth. Nevertheless, London was undergoing some massive changes, both under a cultural and an economic point of view, and many were unsatisfied with them.
«James, how are you doing with your rugby, anyway?»
«Oh Lizzie, I like it so much more than football. Don’t you think it is much funnier?»
«I don’t know James. I can’t see myself rolling in the mud, possibly injured. Don’t you think you could get injured?»
«Not really. We have rules, you know? Vicious behaviour is strictly forbidden. You could come and see us, Claire... what about next Sunday?»
Lizzie looked at me in her I-told-you-so way. She had asked the question, but I had been invited to come and see them.
«Maybe, I don’t know. Any cute guy to be seen over there? They must be in really good shape. It could turn out to be a sexy show. Why not?» I don’t know why I said that, maybe I wanted to spy on James’ reaction and see if Lizzie was right.
«Claire, what are you talking about? You never cared a bit about guys and now you’re interested in a “sexy show”?»
He had blushed. He was pale-skinned, so the red on his face was really striking. He must have been seriously angry, because I had never seen him like that. I repented at once. I also thought that maybe Lizzie was right. I felt happy about that.
By then, I was determined to see to what extent James liked me, so I looked at him pretending to be perfectly naïve and sorry.
«I’m so sorry, James. I didn’t mean to offend you. It’s just that it is such a violent physical activity. I was worried for you».
Liar. That wasn’t true a bit. But it seemed to do the trick anyway.
«I’m sorry, Claire. I overreacted and I don’t want you to worry. I promise no one will get injured. Will you come, then? On Sunday? To see me?» He asked the last question in a very embarrassed whisper. He then looked at me with his big green eyes. I couldn’t help it but smile and agree.
He was extremely happy and he agreed to come with us to Whitechapel. He also said he would stay with us just as long as it would take to talk to the Reverend.
When he said goodbye, Lizzie turned to me.
«God bless you, Claire! The clumsy girl. Poor James will be very disappointed when he finds out you are not in love with him. He’s clearly very much in love with you».
«I don’t know why I acted like that. I love him, though».
«Yeah, like a friend, right?»
«I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out someday».
When dad and Renny came home, it was already pretty late. Dad had some paperwork to go through and my brother offered to help him. When I came to see them, they were absorbed in the reading of some documents. They were writing numbers and notes. I asked them how their day had been. They told me things were just fine and then they added I could go to sleep, if I liked to. They would be busy for some three or four days at least. I kissed dad, I hugged Renny and then I went back to my room. The day after would be pretty tiring.
And then, Saturday came.
I tried to dress in such a way so that I would not be too flashy. We would be working hard, so I needed to be dressed comfortably as well. The girls came over and James accompanied us to Whitechapel. We were holding many packages filled with covers, necessity goods, medecines and clothes. We met many young mothers with their children and we did our best to help them. After a tiring and difficoult day, we came back home. My head was filled with thoughts and questions. We had done our best, but it was not enough. It was never enough.
When the girls had all gone, James sat with me for a while. Dad and Renny wouldn’t be home until late.
We sat in the library, the room I liked the most. It was packed with books and paintings. My mom had painted them and they reminded me of my infancy.
«Claire, I was wondering, ehm... Have you ever thought of getting engaged? You’re always busy with charity and reading books... I never heard you talking about your future. Do you think you could fall in love with... someone? I know you like your freedom, but you could still choose a life companion. Someone you could share stuff with. Someone who loves you...»
I was stuck. This was so unlike James. He would never have said such words.
«You are very kind, James, and I love you dearly. But no, I haven’t thought of getting engaged yet. I want to do something with my life first. Loving someone means being able to take care of him. I’m just not ready». He saddened at once, but spoke in a soft voice.