Chapter 38: Ilsa and Gustav’s Idyllic Life in the Countryside
The next morning, when Ilsa woke up, Gustav was preparing breakfast.
He was mixing flour, eggs, milk, and sugar in a frying pan, making pancakes.
Ilsa couldn’t just sit there and do nothing, so she reluctantly got up, went to the well to fetch water, and boiled it.
She took out a strangely new and beautiful teacup from the shelf and brewed tea.
They sat across from each other for the meal.
With each bite of the moist pancakes, Ilsa nodded in approval.
“It’s delicious when you use freshly squeezed ingredients.”
“Food eaten in town tends to lose freshness during transportation.”
Suddenly, Ilsa thought to herself.
(Is this the first time we’ve talked about the contents of a meal with my husband?)
She had eaten elaborate dishes countless times.
But she had never moved, cooked, or arranged them herself.
(Ordinary villagers must lead lives like this.)
Thinking that, she realized that they were the ones leading a different kind of life.
(And this is what a normal couple experiences in the morning.)
“I’ll split the firewood.”
Ilsa looked up.
“You don’t have to do anything and just relax. You must be tired from sleeping on the rough bed.”
It was probably Gustav, who had been sleeping on the floor, who was tired.
Ilsa felt a deep warmth welling up in the depths of her heart.
“. . .I will do something too.”
“It’s all heavy work. There’s no way you can do it.”
“It’s not good to burden you alone.”
Gustav stared blankly at Ilsa. She smiled.
“What other tasks are there?”
“Leon mentioned watering, cleaning, and brushing the cows. . .”
“I’ll do those.”
“Are you sure?”
Ilsa nodded and got up, pulling out a petticoat from under her luxurious silk dress. She also kicked off her high heels and put on Diana’s sandals that were nearby. Gustav was taken aback.
“This will do. Well then, I’ll go to the well first, so please bring the empty plates.”
Gustav silently nodded, sipped his tea, and looked around the cabin.
Baskets and pots hung haphazardly. Fresh flowers were tightly arranged in simple bottles. Two sets of work clothes and a linen cloth for wiping hands were hanging on the wall.
The things that should be used were in their proper places, and the things that should be cherished were in their appropriate spots.
“. . .We tried to have more than we could handle.”
Without possessions, they had no choice but to rely on each other.
“The more we have, the thinner our relationships with others become, perhaps.”
He felt like the answer to why Diana desired Leon was all here in this cabin.
Ilsa’s sound of washing dishes could be heard from outside. Gustav felt an unprecedented sense of relief from that sound.
Gustav stood up with the empty plates. He entrusted them to Ilsa and went to cut the trees stacked for firewood next to the cabin.
In this rocky and dry land, there was nothing. There were no houses nearby, only the chirping of birds could be heard.
As they worked silently, they didn’t speak. But through the sounds of their respective tasks, their presence became vividly apparent to each other.
(What was it that made me so hungry for conversation with others. . .)
The more they worked silently, the more words accumulated within themselves.
The more they piled up work, the more a sense of satisfaction welled up.
Ilsa felt the same way.
When it was work done by someone else, she didn’t find it bothersome when she did it herself.
Because it was for herself and for the other person.
If it were work aimed at an unspecified number of people, it would likely lead to fatigue. But when it was work dedicated to just the two of them, she felt a sense of pride.
(I never realized that I had never done anything for someone else.)
When it came to manual labor in town, there was honestly not much she did besides writing letters. There were plenty of jobs that involved talking, though.
(. . .Just talking without doing anything feels empty, doesn’t it?)
She wiped the dishes and returned them to the cupboard. Turning on her heel, she watered the small garden.
“Oh, there’s a white flower blooming.”
In Diana’s edible flower garden, there was a white flower she had never seen before.
(I have to tell Diana when she comes back.)
At that moment. . .
A man approached from a distance. He had chestnut hair, a large build, and was solidly built. In his hand, he held a bundle of onions. As Ilsa walked towards him, the young man was surprised and asked.
“Huh? Diana and Leon. . .”
“Hello. I’m Diana’s older sister. We escaped from the town.”
The big man nodded as if understanding.
“Oh, no wonder you look alike! Where did the two go?”
“Well. . .they went to Lipps village for a bit.”
“I see. Sorry for not introducing myself earlier, I’m Fritz, Leon’s older brother. I came to share some onions since we had a good harvest.”
“Oh, thank you. Wait here for a moment.”
Ilsa returned to the cabin and came back with sugar packed in a bottle. She had heard that the village was engaging in bartering during wartime.
“This is a share from our home as well. Please feel free to use this sugar.”
“Ah, this is such a good find. I’ll have to give you another onion later.”
Fritz handed the onion to Ilsa and left.
“Oh, an onion.”
“It smells so good. It’s a fresh onion. Let’s slice it and sauté it for lunch.”
Suddenly, silence fell between the two.
“. . .What should I say?”
Ilsa murmured with a deep emotion.
“I feel strangely happy right now.”
In a blissful silence, accompanied by the chirping of birds.
The two leaned against each other and gently kissed while holding onions.
After parting their lips, Ilsa whispered.
“With you, I feel like I can handle anything. . .I finally realized that after coming here. You’re someone who would do anything for me.”
“Ilsa. . .”
“And if you could just lose some weight, I’d have nothing to complain about.”
Gustav’s face stiffened, and Ilsa laughed.
“. . .Please. If you do, I feel like I can love you even more.”
“Well, I guess I have no choice. . .”
It was the moment when Ilsa’s love for her husband went from zero to one.
Gustav and Ilsa shared the onion and, with light footsteps, returned to the cabin to hang them up.
In order to have a warm meal together.