"Stephan, get up we have to milk the cows and pick up the eggs before church."
I looked outside and it was still dark. I wanted to sleep more but I couldn't, I had to help aunty. I got out of bed, made a bathroom stop and headed to the kitchen. "Do you drink coffee or tea?"
"I'll drink what ever you're having."
So with a cup of coffee, we headed to the barn. "Do you think the cows are lined up ready to be milked this early?"
"Watch." We got the wash and rinse buckets ready, I helped to put straw in the feed bins, took my stool and milk bucket, I was ready.
Sure enough as soon as the barn door was opened, two cows walked in and got into their stalls. I adjusted one of the holders, and began to wash the teats of the cow I would be milking. For some reason, the milking came easier this morning, aunty still finished before me. My goal was to finish before her but not to the determent of the cow. "Aunty, do these cows have a name?"
She looked at me as if I was a little crazy. I started to laugh, "Haven't you ever heard of farmers naming their cows?"
"No, they are just cows."
"I bet if we gave them names and called them that, they would come and use the same stall every time."
"I don't think that is true."
"OK, I'm going to call this one Betsy. From the markings you can see she is different from the one you milked."
And that is how Betsy became my cow to milk. Of course I added a little sweetener to her hay so she would know which stall to come to. Over the next few days, Betsy always came to my stall. I would talk to her as I milked her and I was getting pretty good at that. Aunty just shook her head when I talked to Betsy.
While I picked up the eggs, Aunty went to fix breakfast. I was surprised how many eggs we had, I put them in the same cold box as the milk. Walking into the kitchen, "Aunty do I have time to shower before we eat?"
"Yes, just hurry up and while you eat I'll shower."
Knowing we were going to church, I dressed in the only suit I had brought with me. I hung my jacket over the back of my chair as I ate my breakfast. Finishing, I noticed aunty was ready to go, putting on my jacket, I didn't know if we walked or drove. As aunty walked out of the house, I realized we would be walking. Passing a flower bush, aunty snipped off a flower and stuck in the lapel of my jacket. I also got a kiss on my cheek with the flower.
The walk to church was nice, we met neighbors along the way and soon everyone was chatting. I saw a few kids from the tavern and of course I was looking for Nohr.
Upon entering the church, I noticed the similarities with the church at home which my mother and I attended. As I looked around, I saw Nohr sitting with an older couple which I assumed was his parents. "Aunty, this church looks a lot like my church back home. Are you also Lutheran?"
"Yes, Stephan, the national church of Denmark is Lutheran. You'll be able to follow the service as it is the same in all Lutheran churches."
Aunty was right, I was able to follow and when I didn't know the Danish words I repeated the responses in English. I had a lot to learn. During the homily, the pastor welcomed me in English and then repeated it in Danish. I saw Nohr turn and look at me. I smiled at him which got me a smile back.
After the service, the pastor spoke to me in English. He welcomed me to Denmark and said he expected to see me in church. He asked if I was confirmed, I told him I was. He then asked if I would like to participate in the service as an altar boy, I said I would. We agreed upon a time when we could meet, I thanked him and moved away as other people wanted to speak to him. I waved to Nohr who came with his parents. Turned out they were his grandparents. Aunty told me later that his dad was in the service and his mother traveled with him. They wanted Nohr to have a non-military life and so he stayed with his grandparents.
While aunty talked to his grandparents, Nohr and I talked. I found it hard to look away from him his eyes were hypnotic. They seemed to draw me in and hold me, not letting me go. I was a little embarrassed, he would ask a question and I acted like I didn't hear it. After two or three times, it finally sunk through my head that he asked a question. He just laughed and when he did his eyes seem to twinkle. I had it bad. Then I realized maybe he isn't gay and if he isn't gay, I had no chance with him except as a friend. With that knowledge, I broke my staring and started to act as I normally would with a friend.
Walking away from the church with aunty, I caught a glimpse of Michael. But whenever I concentrated or focused on the image it wasn't there. If we never had our talk when I was in the hospital, I would have thought I was going crazy.
Sunday evening milking out of the way, aunty and I talked about school. We agreed that I should enroll as soon as possible and probably need a tutor for language and reading skills.
Monday morning, after milking and picking up the eggs, we made plans on driving to school. I could have walked but aunty wanted to do some shopping so we took the car. School was something else that was so different from the States.
Since I was 16, I was put in the Upper Secondary school. To say I was confused was a mild statement. On the way home, aunty explained that the school system in Denmark was very different from the system in the States. The Primary and Lower Secondary involved the first 10 years of education. Then if you were between the ages of 16 and 19 you were eligible for the Upper Secondary. That is where I was enrolled. After two years in the Upper Secondary you could go to a prep school. If you stayed for the three years, you could move to a technical or a Gymnasium school. I wasn't sure what that all meant but for now I would need to focus on my current curriculum. One good thing came out of all of this confusion on my part, I would need a tutor and guess who my tutor was going to be, Nohr who was in his last year. I think I smiled all the way home.
After school, we went shopping for groceries as well as some additional clothes for me. I was concerned about the money since it appeared that aunty wasn't working. It was some time later that I discovered that my dad was forced too pay an allowance for my support. Of course aunty had an income from the milk and eggs she sold.
That first week in school was very confusing for me. By the end of the week, I was beginning to feel comfortable and had made a few friends who were very willing to help me. My language skills continue to improve. Nohr said by the end of the term I would be speaking Danish as a native. I knew that wasn't true but the thought was nice.
Aunty finally agreed to giving her cow a name, I didn't think Rosy was a good name but Betsy proved herself very reliable. Soon I was doing all of the milking, picking up eggs in the morning and according to aunty paying for my keep.
By the second month, my routine had been established. Morning chores, school, evening chores and when I had the time, working in the garden. I felt comfortable and soon forgot the reason I was here. I hardly thought of my father although I did remember his birthday with a card. I think he probably threw it away but it was more for me then him. I learned to forgive him and as Michael said, God is love.
It wasn't till the end of the second month when my life changed again and this time for the better. I became addicted to fishing. After chores on Saturday, aunty gave me an old fishing rod and some old flies. I wasn't sure how they would work in the ocean but thought I would give them a try. I did and they didn't work. So as I worked in the garden I noticed every once in a while I would turn up some soil and find a worm. Now I had something else to try. I took an old tin can, packed it half full with dirt and began to collect worms. I thought for sure that would work. Although it did better in the quiet pools of water close to shore, the fish it caught weren't big enough to eat. One of the older men fishing told me to use them for bait. I did and caught my first fish that was big enough to eat. That day I caught three fish that were big enough for a meal. I never clean a fish but the man who told me about using the little fish for bait showed me how on one fish, I borrowed his knife and did the other two. I still had a few small fish left, I gave them to him. He smiled and thanked me as I watched him pulling in his first fish caught with my bait.
"Aunty, I have dinner." She looked at me trying to think what I meant. I showed her the three fish I caught.
"Stephan, that's wonderful, I haven't had fresh fish for ages. Let me rinse the salt water off them and then we will let them soak for a while in some milk. I'll fry them for dinner."
I was glad that I had caught those fish and when we sat down to eat that night I was really glad because they tasted so good. I'm not sure if that was attributed to my aunts cooking or that I was eating fish I caught. Aunty had a big smile on her face and I knew this would be a week-end activity.
That night in bed, I thanked Michael again for giving me a choice, and I'm glad for the choice I made. Snuggling in bed under the duvet that was once my mothers, sleep slowly took over but not before I heard Michael's, God loves you.
Sunday morning with chores out of the way, I dressed for church. This morning I was going to help Pastor as an altar boy. I only did it once a month as there were other boys who wanted to do it as well. It was also communion Sunday and it would be the first time I would assist at communion. Everything was going along well until Nohr came to the communion altar, I forgot what I was suppose to do until Pastor nudge me, my face turned red.
Of course Nohr had to remind me after church services were finished when we met outside. He was laughing and one of the girls wanted to know what he was laughing about. Before he could say anything I told them he was making faces at me and Pastor nudge me. Of course that wasn't the truth but I couldn't tell him that when he looked at me everything stopped for me.
Aunty must have mentioned about me fishing to Nohr's grandparents. The next day at school, Nohr wanted to know about fishing. I told him my experiences and he wanted to go with me on Saturday. Who was I to say no, I agreed and said we would meet at 9 in the morning. I generally was finished with my chores by then. This would also give me time to get some worms to catch the small fish.
I expected to meet Nohr at the fishing spot, so guess my delight when he knocked on aunty's door. "Stephan you have a visitor."
Who could that be, I needed to hurry to meet Nohr to go fishing. I hoped it wasn't some girl. "Nohr what are you doing here? I expected to meet you at the fishing dock."
"I walked by and you weren't there so I thought I'd walk to meet you."
"Bye aunty, get the pans ready we might bring back a few more fish today." I planned on staying and fishing until Nohr had enough. It was my chance to be alone with him.
'What's in the can?"
"You can't catch fish with worms. You need chunks of rotten meat."
I just smiled. "If I catch a fish with my worms, will you give me a kiss." I know I might be over stepping my boundaries a little but he could always say no.
He looked at me, I smiled, he got a funny look in his eyes, "If you don't catch a fish with your worms then you have to come and milk our goats."
Now I never milked a goat but they can't be so different from a cow, so I agreed.
Arriving at the ocean, I prepared to catch my small fish. When Nohr saw me do that he started to laugh. "Those fish aren't big enough to eat."
"That depends on who is eating." I baited my rod with one of the fish and casted into the ocean. I waited and then I got a hit. I wound in my line and I had a fish that was bigger than last week. I looked at Nohr, wetted my lips and looked at him as if to say you lose I want my kiss.
For a minute I wasn't sure I would get my kiss, he looked around and seeing no one, he leaned own and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I didn't want the kiss there but since I didn't specified where I had to settle for the kiss on the cheek.
We continued to fish until I had five large fish and Nohr had six large fish. We cleaned them on the deck, dropping the insides into the ocean. I noticed there were quite a few crabs that came to eat what he dropped. "Nohr, are those crabs good eating?"
"Those, they are coming to eat the insides of the fish we cleaned."
Nohr looked over and watched the crabs coming up to grab the food. "I'm not sure. My granddad would know. Maybe we should catch one so I can take it home to show him."
Now to figure out how to catch one. Just before Nohr was going to dump his cleanings into the ocean, I took some and baited my hook with it. Dropping my line over the side, one of the crab grabbed it and held on as I reeled it in. Nohr took it and put it with this fish.
"Nohr, you can't do that. The crab will eat your fish." He quickly pulled the crab out but it already had a piece of his fish.
"I'm going home. If you are done with your chores, come to the tavern."
When I got home, I showed aunty the fish. She quickly rinsed them and then put them in milk. "We have enough to invite Pastor for dinner tomorrow. Would you like that?"
"Yes, but do we have enough?"
"Yes, we'll have plenty."
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]