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The Merlin Factor - Chapter One 2/2
Topic Started: Dec 16 2015, 09:52 PM (93 Views)
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The Merlin Factor - Chapter One 2/2.

England: Gunton Park, Norfolk. 1990.

"Oh, my poor, dear baby..." Marion cradled her daughter's head against her stately bosom, gentling away the hurt. "Why did you ever stay so long with him?"
Daphne softly shook her head, wanting to speak all those thoughts that remain forever just thoughts, because there are no words for them.
"Because... Because he loved me. He really did..." And it sounded foolish, put into inadequate words. Even to her, it sounded foolish. But as usual, her mother surprised her.
"Ah. Yes. Of course. Of course he loved you, Daphne. Who could not, after all?" She kissed Daphne's shining chestnut hair, stroking it smooth with wrinkled old fingers. Love. Always it was love...

The black-eye belied any such thing as love, of course, but there are those who judge and those who understand. Marion was the understanding sort. Daphne, by association, was too. But it had needed to end. The marriage was doomed. Even Michael had known it. Known it from the very start. Nothing either of them had tried, had stood any chance of working in the long run. Some things are just not meant to be. Daphne sighed, wondering how she knew this. Wondering why.

"Love has many faces," Marion said, in a far-away sort of voice. "It makes us do things that really have no reason in them." She laughed a little laugh. "As if reason had anything to do with anything." Daphne looked up into her mother's eyes.
"Mummy?" For even now she called her mother that.
"What is it, my love?"
"Why can't I find someone like Johnny?" Marion's face fell as her heart swept away to far horizons, always hoping to find some trace, some sign of what she had lost. "Johnny." The very name still enchanted her. Always would.
"There will be a Johnny for you, my dear. There always is."
Daphne felt a tear run down her own cheek, even as she watched one slide down her mother's. For Marion had lost her husband to a German battleship, off Jutland. Then, twenty years later, she had lost Johnny - the love of her life - in the great air-battles of nineteen forty. She had never loved a man again.

"The Johnnys of the world come but once in a lifetime, I think..." Her heart felt so empty, yet so full. "But they always come, my love. Always."
Daphne was sorry she had mentioned it at all. Her mother's hurt would never leave her. The space left by the disappearance of Johnny would never be filled. She massaged the pain around her eye, willing the discoloration to go away. She did not want anyone else to see her like this. And in a few more days, the great ship would be leaving Sydney, on the other side of the world...

"Mummy?"
"Yes, my darling?"
"Are you sure you still want me to go on the cruise? I don't have to..."
Marion frowned a stern, make-believe frown. She could be very strict when she wanted to be, although Daphne had long since known that it was just a face she wore, not a real part of her personality. At least: not any more. "You must go," she replied, with emphasis on the "must". "I have been saving for this for years. It is my gift to you, sweet-heart. You'll have a wonderful time. Trust me."

And Daphne trusted her. She had always felt lucky to have a mother like Marion. Nobody else she had ever met had such a fine, loving mother. Marion allowed her, somehow, to remain a little girl, while still being able to be a mature, responsible woman. It was a trick; a magic trick, done with love. Only Marion could do tricks like this. Marion. "But you've not been well, Mummy..."

"I will never be well again, my love. And soon I will not need to be well, for I shall be dead." She held up her hand for silence, as her daughter rose to object and deny. "Shhh. There is nothing to be sad about. It is a fact. And you are grown now. A beautiful woman. I know you love me, as I love you, but you do not need me. You see? I have lived long and well, and besides, you know, I will be with Johnny again..."

And there it was, after all. What she really wanted. To be with her man, once more. It was enough to break Daphne's heart. It was enough, too, to dissolve her resistance. For Daphne had been raised well, and taught, by a rare woman indeed. Marion knew things not many people knew. She understood things that few even considered. Her daughter was her protege. The Woman Absolute. It was a personal thing between them, this knowledge.

For years, off and on, Marion had been having lucid dreams in which a small, sharp-winged bird had flown with her through moonlit skies, showing her things that could not be seen in daylight. Things that could not be seen amid the too-sharp images of waking life. Often, Daphne felt, it seemed that Marion would rather remain in this dream-world, than wake up inside her old and aching body. For the dreams, she related, were painless and peaceful. Filled with love, and the promise of miraculous things-to-come. She had often said that it was only her love for her daughter, the daughter that was all that remained of Johnny, that made her keep waking up at all.

It was only a week ago, that Daphne had brought home a magazine from the hospital where she was a nurse, for in it was an article about vanishing British birds of prey. Marion had smiled and pointed to the photograph of a diminutive falcon with the most intriguing of names: Merlin. It was this bird, or one just like it, that had flown so long beside her in her dreams. And what's in a name? In a name like Merlin? Nothing, if not Magic!

*****

England: Coltishall, Norfolk. 1940.

Johnny slept fitfully, slipping from dream to dream, troubled.
His body lay exhausted from the day's demands, wrung out and depleted. The fear he lived with, daily, raged at him even in sleep, denying him the chance to prepare himself for survival, preventing any peace. At least he had something new, now, to dream about. Something almost as frightening - in its way - as the flying - and fighting - of a high-performance fighter, but far, far more erotic...

He moaned softly as the images gelled, his fingers wandering unaware, to his sex, which grew large beneath the sheets. He found himself once again in the King's Head public house at North Walsham...

His face was burning, beet red, he knew. He could feel it! Bob, Fred and he had been knocking back pints, exchanging dirty jokes, when out of nowhere, appeared an astonishingly attractive older woman. She strode imperiously over to his table, looked coolly down into his eyes and asked him to dance. Unheard of! Before he could come up with a suitable reaction, she grasped his elbow in a surprisingly strong, leather gloved hand, and hauled him right out of his seat, and in words loud enough to be heard by all, claimed that if he did not dance with her, she would turn him over her knee and give him a sound spanking...

As he flushed and stammered, she stared at him in a way that made him her instant slave. He found himself, alone with her, surrounded by an intrigued audience, attempting to slow-dance to whatever it was that was smooching from the horn of the scratchy gramophone. He had never danced before in his life! He was horrified. Embarrassed beyond words! And frantically trying to hide the most momentous erection of his life.
"Stop squirming!" She commanded. "Settle down and dance with me, Sergeant. It won't kill you, you know..."

Johnny had never felt anything like this feeling that now engulfed him. He felt drugged. His head swam, and not from the beer. Her breasts pressed against him and her perfume made him as putty in her capable hands, while she led with sure steps, directing him to follow her lead. He glanced back anxiously at his grinning compatriots, wanting to break away and run, but he was mesmerized. Stunned. It took the entire length of the endless dance, for him to realize that he had just fallen in love...
"Johnny Hawken. What a nice name..." Her voice had the same effect as her perfume, the rich alto fuddling him into a daze. "Will you walk with me, Johnny? I have no one to see me to my motor..."

Bob and Fred jumped up as one, honoring the woman's withdrawal, leaving Johnny no choice but to accompany her. To Johnny's surprise, the two men were gracious enough to refrain from comment as she led him, by the hand, from the noisy warmth of the bar. The cool evening air ran into him like a barn door, jolting him out of his daze and into something like resistance. "Er - I - ah... Now look here!"

He pulled back, dragging his feet like a recalcitrant pony being led to pasture. "I... I have to be up very earl..."
She turned upon him and slapped him so hard and so unexpectedly across the face, that he fell to the ground, shocked, awestruck, unable to decide how to react, and effectively stopped, mid-word in his objection. She stared down at him sternly, legs apart, hands on her hips, daring him to resist further. In her heels, she stood taller than he, but from his viewpoint, sprawled upon the ground, she towered over him like a beautiful, angry Goddess. He was genuinely frightened.

"I meant what I said about spanking you, Johnny." She paused to let the words take effect. She nodded as he gasped. "Perhaps I shall anyway. Now walk with me..." And that was that. Johnny embarked upon his love feeling stranger than strange. Afraid but excited. Humbled. Cowed. But so, so alive.

The night was still and somehow vibrant. It lived like no other night he had ever known. He felt eyes watching in the moonlight; cat eyes, cow eyes, eyes of owls and of bats...
"You are a pilot, Johnny?" She inclined her head towards him, striding purposefully down the lane.
"Ah, yes. Coltishall. I fly..."
"Spitfires." She finished it for him. "It is very dangerous, isn't it." It was not a question.
He drew in breath, instinctively beginning the denial, that was bravado, and therefore false, that it really was not dangerous at all. But he did not say this. He knew, in a flash of insight, that he did not have to. That indeed, he had better not.
"Yes. Very." His voice sounded unfamiliar. Small. Not his own voice.
"And you are afraid." Again, a statement. He nodded.
"Would a woman you could come to, after the danger, be of use to you? A woman who would allow you to be afraid?" She stopped. Turned to him. Held him. "Would you like that, Johnny?"
His erection pulsed, painfully, against his thigh, straining to rip the blue fabric of his trousers. Oh God YES! Oh Jesus! Please! Still his confusion scrambled his words: "Ah... Well... That is..."
"Johnny? Just tell me." Her voice softened into an angel's voice. Home. Safety. Life. The Mother he had never known.
"Yes. Oh yes. I would like that..." She leaned down the two inches that separated her lips from his and kissed him, softly, lovingly. There was wetness on her cheeks. "My name is Marion," she breathed. "I want you to come to me as often as you can, Johnny. Not just for you, but for me, too. I have been alone for far too long..."

*****

He awoke with a start as the morning call rapped against the door of the room. He felt wretched. He lay there, feeling magic fade into reality, and trying to hold the magic, thought about what had happened later that night...

By the time he had staggered up to the main gate, he was someone he had never been before. Scrambled beyond belief. Wide-eyed, yet unseeing. Confused. Squeezed dry.
He remembered staring blankly at Asquith, the duty guard for the night, trying to remember how he was supposed to act.
"Sir? Everything all right, sir?"
He had considered. Why did Sergeant Asquith persist in calling him "Sir"? They were the same rank. He'd dismissed the thought. What the hell difference did it make?
"Oh. Fine. Thank you, Asquith. Just fine..." He had saluted, and as he did it, had felt quite foolish. For now Asquith would have to salute back. Asquith had. Very smartly indeed. "Uh - Squadron Leader back, is he?" he had enquired.
"Yes, sir. Long time ago, sir."
"Oh. Right." It had been late indeed. Oh well.
"He said not to worry about the time, sir." A wink. Almost fast enough to be missed. But not quite. S.P.'s were good at that sort of thing. The whole station probably already knew of his abduction and seduction. It must have been very obvious.
"What is the time, anyway?"
"Two-fifteen, sir."
Good Lord! Two-fifteen! He had been shocked. Then he'd giggled, briefly. His repertoire of suitable reactions being exhausted. So what? It really wasn't important anyway...
Johnny Hawken lay there, gazing unseeingly at the ceiling, feeling lost, alone and frightened. But not nearly as lost, alone and frightened as he had before Marion. Oh, Marion... He had never felt so strongly about anything - anyone - in his life. He felt utterly consumed...
Sergeant Pilot Johnny Hawken, R.A.F., was in love.

*****

"Squawk!" said the crow, and then made space.
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