Tor Kung: My Mother Taught Me

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Tor Kung My Mother Taught Me
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    My Mother Taught Me
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Tor Kung

My Mother Taught Me

Chapter One

I was trembling. I was going to see a woman for the first time in my life. Or rather, a young, attractive woman. We had matrons at the orphanage, but they were a hundred years old and didn't count as women. And when I say the first time, that isn't completely accurate either. Probably I had met women before I was seven, but since then I'd been in the orphan home, and I couldn't remember back that far. Now, after all these years of wondering and longing after that mystery, I was going to meet a beautiful woman.

I was born in Camden Town, North London, during the early years of the last war. I don't know much about my parents except that they were Swedes who were caught by the war while visiting England. I know that I had a sister and that my father died soon after I was born. My mother, as far as I can judge, was a respectable woman who managed to take good care of us until I was seven. Then, for some mysterious reason (something I did, something evidently shameful and awful) she placed me in the orphanage.

As the years passed and I grew older, I was obsessed with worry and guilt over what it was that I had done, but I could never, try as I would, remember. I tried in all ways to be good and proper, hoping this would somehow make up for it and that Mother would come back and love me. I thought, or hoped, that she might hear if I was good. But she never came.

Perhaps because of the great scandal in my past, or simply because I was so shy, no one seemed to want to adopt me. Occasionally people would come and look at us while we played in the recreation area and many of my friends were called for personal interviews with prospective parents, but until the spring of my fourteenth year I had not gotten even a nibble.

At this time I was a tall, slender boy with a shock of sandy blond hair over wide-set, light-blue eyes that they said gave me a simple and honest appearance. My mouth was a little too large and full-lipped to compensate for the tendency of my cheeks to freckle in the sun, but I was not an ugly boy. Nevertheless, as I walked back to the orphanage from school on the afternoon of my fourteenth birthday, I had given up hope of ever belonging to a family again, since so many years had passed without anyone evincing the slightest interest in me. Hence I was surprised when, entering the yard, I was told by a matron that a wealthy young couple was interested in adopting me and was, at this moment waiting in the Head Master's office to interview me.

I hurried in to wash, but for a few minutes I could do nothing, so great was my inner agitation. It was not only the possibility of being adopted that overpowered me, but more, the mere possibility of seeing the couple. For the matron had, described them as being young and I could not remember ever seeing a young woman! For some reason I wasn't allowed to. Each time a woman came to the orphanage I was always somehow shuttled away. Thus the prospect of just seeing a young woman had me trembling with eagerness and excitement. Soon, however, I composed myself enough to wash and hurry to the office.

As I approached I found the door slightly open and I was just raising my hand to knock when I heard, coming from within, the strangest and most beautiful voice I had ever experienced. It was deeper than a boy's and more rich and throaty, yet it was higher than a man's and sweet, like the song of a bird. It was saying…

“… and you say he doesn't even see pictures of women? That he never has?”

“No, Mrs. Brahe,” followed the deep voice of Mr. Anderson, the Head Master. “We cut them out of all his books and magazines before he reads them. This was the stipulation of his mother when she left him with us: he must never have any contact with women here.”

The magic effect of the first voice, coupled with the sweeping sense of shame at what Anderson was saying, brought me up sharply. I pulled myself together and knocked timidly.

“Come in!” Anderson's voice said.

What I saw is quite truly the most incredible experience of my life. I had, of course, read vague descriptions of women in books, and I had tried very hard for years to form some mental image from these, but it had never really taken shape and certainly had in no way prepared me. I had barely registered the fact that there were three people seated at the desk, when the woman turned to face me. The sight of her was a miracle and, try as I would, my eyes at first simply could not take it in. I must have stood gaping in awe and wonder for some time.

When my vision finally cleared and focused I found myself noting each wondrous detail and simultaneously trying to memorize them. She was wearing a large fur hat and a mink stole hung from her shoulders over some kind of suit unlike anything I'd known. There was a general sense of luxury and beauty. Her hair had a miraculous red-gold sheen which seemed to reflect and absorb the rays of the late sun like crystal; its texture seemed like the cloth of gold I had read of in books of chivalry. Her neck was long and fine. Its skin was white, yet pink with life like mother-of-pearl, still it seemed soft as warm silk. Below, where the neckline of the suit was cut in a “V” there was a strange other “V” in her swelling flesh. I kept staring at this odd difference, noticing how it undulated with her breathing and how much whiter the skin was just as it disappeared.

Her skirt came just to her knees as she sat with her legs uncrossed. They were in the sheerest stockings and seemed to be formed in wax by a master artist, gracefully curving from back of the knee, swelling out to the calf and then down down and back to the slimmest ankles I could imagine. “How does she stand?” I wondered, noticing the high-heeled Italian shoes.

And then, full of wonder, I dared her face. If you can imagine what it would mean to be blind and then suddenly, miraculously, to see your first leaf, then you may appreciate a part of what happened to me. To say that her face was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen would be, to a gross degree, an understatement. Her bearing was elegant and aristocratic, but it was the features and the expression that compounded the miracle. She had a high, finely set brow over which the skin was smooth and firm, but not tight. The nose was straight, narrow and finely molded. Her cheeks were smooth and milk-white though they were transformed by a slight flush of rose as she met my awed glance. Her lips were fantastically red, the color of ripe strawberries shining with dew. It was unbelievable how red they were. On each cheek as she started to smile was the faintest trace of a dimple. The chin was round with a small cleft in the center. This face was a study in perfection for an artist, but for a young boy in my unusual position, it was the Eucharist itself!

And her eyes! They were wide and open, of light pearl-gray, and their expression was both eager and questioning, warm and comforting at the same time. Indeed, all the time I stood there, she regarded me with that same surprised, intent, yet almost inviting expression. When I finally took it in it so weakened my knees that I nearly stumbled and fell. I was hopelessly at a loss until Mr. Anderson appeared at my side suddenly and, almost hurriedly taking my hand speaking quickly, drew me toward the desk.

“Come, Lars,” he said. “I'd like you to meet Mr. and Mrs. Brahe from Stockholm.” As I moved uncertainly with him, my eyes again realized the beautiful woman, the tall man beside her with a folio of papers in his hand, the desk scattered with documents once more.

She was still looking at me that way, but smiling now and extending her hand. I remembered how ladies' hands were always kissed by their knights. I hesitated, blushed, took her hand, hesitated again, then timidly brushed it quickly with my lips. As I did so my nostrils were assailed by the most delicate and seductive odor of perfume I had ever imagined and, as I stifled a gasp and stepped back, I must have paled.

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