Tea With Antonia

Cafe de Paix
[The Grid]-----> > > > > THE LOST GENERATION < < <

A narrow wooden door with a bell chiming merrily is a contrast to boarded up window which once was giving a nice view of the street outside. Hit by shells, the window has broken and the owners have found it better to simply board it up, leaving sunlight outside and no view except a painting of the countryside which has been put up to cover the ugliness of the boards.
The rest of the cafe has a coziness to it, however. Small, round wooden tables and chairs of metal are spread out unevenly in the room. White tablecloths, candles, ashtrays and a little flower decoration on each table makes it feel almost classy. The wooden floor is kept clean by the staff, who keep that mop ready at all times to wipe off the dirt from soldier boots. Wine is the main drink here, as that is the only thing not in short supply, but there's simple meals to be had.
It is currently night time.

Morgenstern must have spent hours washing his uniform, polishing his boots and shining all metal details on the outfit. Instead of the helmet, he wears the matching hat of the uniform, though the helmet sits on top of the backpack he's carrying. And the rifle is as always with him. He's standing outside of the cafe, staring to the north where it's likely Antonia will be coming from, gripping the bouquet of flowers tightly in his left hand.

Antonia had intended to look nice for this, really she did. But when one is a doctor it's impossible to avoid the last minute. She got caught up trying to save a patient who'd come in with half his leg blown off, and she did her damndest to clean up in the ten minutes she had between that and now. At least her uniform isn't bloodsoaked, the white of her cuffs and collar only lightly spattered with dirt and blood. Tasty. Her hair is messy, swiftly tied back into something resembling a chignon, that's already starting to fall loose. She washed her face and hands, and ran out. She comes towards the cafe trying her best not to be self-conscious about the way she looks, trying to fix her hair and not be seen doing it.

Morgenstern spots her with keen eye-sight and he can't help but to smile broadly when seeing her. He shifts his feet in sudden nervousness however, glancing at the flowers who are already beginning to fade somehwat. But then he straightens up to his full height and walks to meet her with those long confident steps. "Doctor Young," he says, gaze roaming appreciatively over her before settling on her face. He thrusts the flowers out to her, saying the first thing that comes to his mind; "You look good enough to eat." Soon as he's said that he winces, and hurriedly begins to amend. "I mean, you, uh… you're looking really nice today. As you do every day." Someone just shoot him and get it over with.

Antonia turns a healthy shade of red hearing that, putting both hands over her mouth for a moment. "My goodness, Corporal…" she says, her voice muffled by her palms as she can't quite tear them away yet. "What a greeting." Her laughter sounds a little nervous, but at least she wrests her hands from her face, avoiding his eyes as she brushes them on the sides of her skirt and then reaches for the flowers. "Are these for me? They're just lovely…" And for however faded or wilted they may be, she sounds like she means that.

Morgenstern lets out air in a relieved sigh as she's not angry with him. "I'm sorry," he says earnestly, managing to get his nerves back. And he looks contently smug she likes the flowers, reminding himself to thank Byrd for the tips later. He offers his arm to her to take, gesturing at the cafe. "Shall we? I've made sure there's a table free for us to take. And there will be real tea."

Antonia doesn't look like she quite knows what to do with an offered arm, looking blank for a moment before she realizes she's supposed to touch him. When was the last time she'd touched someone unwounded, even to shake hands? "That sounds marvelous," she says to cover her moment of confusion. Her hand is small on his sleeve as she slips her arm through his, her other hand keeping the flowers against her chest. "I didn't keep you waiting terribly long, did I?"

Morgenstern is careful to not pull her hand too close to himself, holding his elbow out slightly as he leads them into the cafe. "No no, not at all," he assures her, giving her a quick smile. Up close, he smells of soap, from the washing of his uniform and from the bath he so obviously has taken. And there's that everpresent scent of cigarettes and oil from rifle-cleaning. As he promised, there is a table set aside for them not too far from the door, next to what was once the window though there will be no nice view of the street until the cafe is fully repaired. He's rehearsed this in his mind so he remembers to pull the chair out for her. "Did you have problems getting some free time?"

Antonia smiles a little as he pulls out the chair. She brushes the folds of her skirt back with a ladylike motion, sitting down in a rather graceful manner. "Thank you, Corporal," she says, the moment of civilized behavior setting her a bit more at ease. At the question she picks at her collar, trying to straighten it. "Oh…just things cropping up as they do. It's so hard to step away sometimes when there's so many that need care." She sounds apologetic. "But I have put another in charge, so I needn't worry." She smiles, in a way that says she'll always worry. It didn't matter who was in charge.

Morgenstern is more of a bastard so isn't too worried about leaving the front line behind. He sits down opposite of Antonia, dislodging his backpack next to himself, leaning it against the wall together with the rifle. The cafe has a fair number of other customers, most of them French soldiers who smoke and drink coffee and he glances at them for a moment, before making eye contact with a waitress who works here. He simply nods to her and she runs off to get the order he's already made sure is waiting. "You're the best doctor I've ever met," he simply tells Antonia, digging out a cigarette to smoke. He squints at her, once more taking in her appearance and smiling when seeing that as usual, her hair is in some disorder. The smile is broad and warm. "What made you decide to come here?"

Antonia watches the exchange with the waitress with a slightly raised brow, curiosity aroused. Her green eyes look a little brighter with amusement as she looks back at him, determined not to ask. At his question she just glances down long enough to brush a stray strand of hair behind her ear, then she straightens her back. "Oh. Well. I was in nursing school and…" She makes an absent gesture around. "They needed nurses." She falls silent at that. "I wasn't particularly hopeful about prospects at home, so." She clears her throat and shrugs one shoulder. "What about yourself, why did you come?" She asks him curiously, looking at his face. Especially with him being German, but she's not going to say that.

Morgenstern habitually offers a cigarette over. It's not that common of a sight to see a woman smoke but it's not unheard of and Antonia is just so independent it comes naturally to him to offer one. "So, you became a doctor here?" he asks curiously. He shifts on his seat, trying to think of a way to simply avoid her question, but deciding to simply be honest. "I had serious debts to the wrong people and needed to get away from everything. So, I joined the Legion not too long before the war started. And here I am now," he says dryly, striking a match to light the cigarette.

Antonia gently waves away the cigarette with a soft chuckle. "No, thank you. Private Byrd gave me one of these a few weeks ago and I think I can still smell it. And yes, I became a doctor here. It was in a spot of desperation on their part I suspect, but I've done my best." She doesn't seem to mind his smoking, and he's slowly relaxing, her body still quite straight but gradually becoming less self-conscious. As he explains his situation she picks absently at her cuff, her brows drawing together lightly. "Here you are indeed," she says thoughtfully. "What is it you think you'll do with yourself once this mess is done?"

Morgenstern tucks the cigarette case away and blows smoke out, away from her. "You're a great doctor," he says once more, really meaning it. "Well…" he says, glancing around in the cafe again, "I'm a French citizen now and I was thinking I'd start up a little cafe, like this one. I don't know much about cafes, but I do know how to work hard. And I always liked cafes," he says with a lopsided smile, looking back at her. There's no mention of the probabilities of him even making it out alive to start a cafe after the war. "What about you? What're your plans?"

His smile seems to make Antonia smile, even though she didn't intend to. "That sounds like a lovely idea." Her eyes glance around the cafe as well, perhaps wondering what his ideas would drum up. She looks back at him then. "Me? Oh, well. I'm not entirely sure." She chuckles softly. "I haven't really received any word as to whether I'm still to be called Doctor at all once this is over. Regardless there isn't much to do back home besides knit, and, well…I'm awful at knitting."

"Somehow I can not picture you sitting amongst other ladies discussing the latest knitting pattern, no," Morgenstern says with that dry humor, giving her a broad grin. "If they strip you of the doctor title… that would not be fair. But not much in life is," he says fatalistically. "You start a cafe too and treat injured in a back room and make lots of extra money," he suggests, dead pan.

Antonia smirks, quirking an eyebrow at him. "What a shortcut. I shall call it 'Scones and Scalpels'. Lovely ring to it." She can find plenty of humor in the situation, or at least she can pretend to. "So. You will stay in France. Are you a city sort of man, or will your cafe be tucked away into the rolling hills?" She smiles a little.

"Lovely name for a cafe. It'll be a big success," Morgenstern rumbles, eyes glittering now with good humor. And now the orders finally arrive; a large pot of tea which smells suspiciously like real Earl Grey and two large pieces of some sweet cake and whipped cream to that. The waitress sets everything down quickly and neatly before disappearing again. "Definitely city. I grew up in Frankfurt, which is a fairly large city. Though, I don't mind the sleepy village either. After this war, I just might want the peace and quiet of a small place." He leans over to pour tea up for her. "What about you, what do you prefer?" He devours her with his eyes again, oddly comfortable. He doesn't often talk about private things with anyone as he's just not the most social type. But he finds himself enjoying this very much.

"I'm rather used to cities," Antonia replies with a small smile. "Though I've often thought that were I to continue in medicine I should like to work in a smaller town for a while. They're the ones that need it far more. Particularly for women, you know." Ha-ha, women doctors for women patients. Ridiculous. Except to her. She's saved from saying too much more on the topic, though, as the tea and cake arrive. "Oh, my…" she says, putting the palm of her hand against the center of her chest. "This was your idea?" she asks him, sounding a little bit stunned.

"No point in having tea if it's not real tea," Morgenstern says, pouring up for himself. Tea might not be his first choice of drinks normally, but he wouldn't want anything else to drink right now. "Apparently, the owner of this cafe is quite the patriot and even have men billeting here. He's refused to give the place up. So all I had to explain was that I wanted to give this wonderful woman some really nice tea and he went out of his way to see to it. In fact, I had more problems finding some flowers that were not poppies I picked myself at some trench," he says and grins at her. Now he's finding the humor in his own nervosity about arranging everything perfectly.

Antonia tries to fold her hands in her lap but she seems curiously fidgety, her fingers twisting lightly. "This is just wonderful, Corporal…just absolutely wonderful." She reaches for her teacup, picking it up with both of her small hands, and she raises it to her face. Not to drink, immediately, but just to get a long inhale of the fragrant steam. She tilts her chin up a little bit, letting her eyes drift closed for a pleasant moment before she looks at him. "I just don't know what to say."

Morgenstern takes a spoonful of the cake before he even tastes the tea. At first he eats it quickly and with the obvious habit of someone used to things tasting bland, then he suddenly stops chewing. He makes a sound, a mixture of a grunt and a moan, then takes another bite with almost childish joy. "It's just tea and cake and yes, it's wonderful and I should get a medal," he jokes. "But what is that compared to…" He never finished the sentence, but the intent stare he is giving her makes it clear he meant to say something about her but decided not to for fear of going too far. Or perhaps because he's scared. "Thank you. I'm really glad you enjoy it."

Antonia smiles at the way his face looks when he tries the cake, and it makes lines appear at the corners of her eyes. Even at her young age that was starting, lines which would make her unappealing to so many men. She doesn't say anything for a long while, looking down at the cup and taking a sip of the tea. Once she's swallowed that she makes a small sound in her throat, just a thoughtful one. She blows lightly on the surface of the hot water, her eyes looking at the rim and then taking a chance in looking back at his face. "You know, it's incredibly nice to just watch someone…/enjoy/ something, for once."

Morgenstern pauses with the spoon midway to his mouth again, then nods quickly at her in agreement. "There's been ups and downs of the war. I haven't fought all the time, there's been periods of leave. Short ones, but they've been there. And I've loved every minute of it but grown restless and wanting to be back at the mud, trenches, death, wounded… because you belong there. You truly only feel really at home in that misery." He shakes his head, wolfing down the next bite of cake before speaking again. "I can't explain it. Once we're back we complain about the misery of all and just want to get leave again."

Antonia sets her cup down as he talks, picking up her fork and cutting into the cake. She nods slowly, getting the cake onto her fork as if aware that the sooner she began eating it, the sooner there would be no more. "It is amazing how we can see things from afar, but not up close," she muses, her brows drawing together slightly. "Madness. I wonder what it will be like when it's all done." She doesn't seem particularly invested in really thinking about it, though, as she moves on after just a heartbeat. She finally takes that bite of cake, and it's really good enough to weep over. "My compliments to the baker, truly. He knows how to make an English girl cry." She chuckles.

Morgenstern finally gets to the tea, having wolfed down half the cake already. He picks the cup up in his large hand, curling his fingers around it so the small delicate porcelain cup almost disappears in his palm. He takes a quick slurp, sighs contently again as the Earl Grey mixes so well with the sweet taste still lingering in his mouth. "Please don't start crying, rumour would be I made Doctor Young cry and everyone would hate me forever," he jokes. He's thankful the topic shifted back to something more joyful again, silently cursing himself for bringing in the misery of war into the conversation. He sets the cup down carefully, watching her intently again. "Tell me more about yourself. Where you come from, family…" Suitors, boyfriends. But he doesn't ask that.

Antonia chuckles lightly, taking another bite of the cake before she returns her attention to her tea. It's funny how their hands are different on the cups. She cradles the cup in both of her small ones, comfortably. Her pale eyes notice his hands and she smiles absently to herself, but her attention goes to his face as he talks. "Myself?" She asks, caight off guard. "Oh, well. I'm from Swindon, if you've ever heard of it." There's not much in her voice that tells how she feels about the city. "There's not much to know. I've a sister and a brother, both of whom are happily nestled with lovely families…" She smiles a little bit, rather proud of them. "I've a niece I haven't met that I hope to one day. Other than that, no one I'm close to, really." She sips her tea. "What about you, is there anyone you're…um…close to?" That comes out far more awkwardly than she'd meant it to.

Morgenstern's hand around the cup tightens somewhat as the topic is turned back to him. Of course he should have expected that since he just asked her about her family. "I have a son," he says after a long moment of just staring at her. "I've never met him though so I wouldn't call myself close…" He smiles thinly, but then the smile turns warmer. "And my mother is still alive, and I have three younger sisters who I suppose are all married now."

Antonia listens to him, but some of that seems to go past her as she hears the first part. She's quiet for a few moments, staring intently at the cup. Then she raises her eyes, looking at him. "How old is your son?" Where her tone could so easily be cautious or ready to pass judgment, it isn't. She sounds surprised, but at the same time she dearly wants to know.

This is a sensitive topic because to Morgenstern, it's one big failure in his life. "He is almost six years old now," he says quietly. "His name is Mikael. My wife, curse that slut, decided I wasn't rich enough for her tastes and moved up in the world with one of her rich lovers. She was at least kind enough to tell me the child she was carrying was mine." He grins toothily. "Shortly after that I joined the Legion."

Antonia clears her throat lightly at the language, sipping her tea and keeping it firmly in front of her face for a few moments. Her ears are a little reddened after that, and her fingers re-arrange themselves around the cup. "I'm sorry to hear that, Corporal," she says, for absolute lack of anything meaningful to say.

Morgenstern ducks his head down to hide his face for a moment, slurping more of the tea before it turns cold. "I'm no longer married to her, of course," he then explains with some emphasis. She's not sitting here drinking tea with a married man. "And there's not much to be sorry about, I got myself into the situation and I got myself out of it." He smiles at her then, another warm smile. "I just think it is important you know where I come from. I don't want to lie to you."

"Oh, no, I-…" Antonia trails off, not having thought about what the end of that sentence was supposed to be. She sips her tea again, quickly, then makes herself put it down. "It's really hardly my business; I shouldn't have pried so." That's accompanied by a slight wave of her hand. "You're a fine man. And a fine Corporal. I would think I'd have some choice words for your wife if ever I met her." Her shoulders straighten a little at that, and for a moment it looks quite true. She would be willing to give such a woman an earful.

"You didn't pry," Morgenstern tells her gently, impulsively reaching a hand out to pat the back of her hand a few times before pulling it back. "You just asked a totally normal question." He chuckles at what she says last, it making him grin broadly and appreciatively. "I'd pay money to see that. Lots of money." He now finishes the cake in a few quick bites, getting sadly aware of how much time has passed, the lunch/tea date drawing closer to its inevitable end.

Antonia blinks as he touches her hand, but doesn't pull away. Once he's withdrawn she doesn't move that hand, the other reaching up absently to touch her ear. She smiles a little. "Well, let's hope you can conserve your money. I know you Corporals are paid like kings and everything, but it does run through one's fingers." She teases lightly.

"Oh, yes. All this tea and cake can ruin a man," Morgenstern says, dead pan. He makes more than the private, but not so much it's making him a rich man. He's once more distracted by her hand and her hair and holds back an impulse to reach out and touch her more intimiately; his hand actually moves up slightly but he shifts it and pretends he was only about to pick his cup up to finish his tea. "I wish we had all day, Doctor Young. But I must be getting back." He says that reluctantly, having drawn the lunch out as long as he possibly could.

Antonia seems to freeze as it seems he might touch her. It's not a fearful tension, though…it's something else. When he goes for the tea instead, she glances down towards the crumbs of cake. Her lips part slightly as if to speak, but she stops herself, brushing her fingertips by her mouth before she smiles. "Of course. We're all so busy." There's more disappointment in her voice than she intended to show. "Thank you, um…" Hesitation almost wins out. "Thank you, Markus. Do take care."

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