We didn’t hear Jules coming up behind us. You can see his shoes… I can’t believe the photograph captured that. The moment everything changed. My hands tremble, looking at it, even now.
If we’d heard…
I haven’t seen Stefan since that day. That’s him on the left. You can’t see the look in his eyes… It breaks my heart. There should be a record of the way his face glowed when he looked at Lukas. That’s Lukas on the right, beautiful Lukas, grinning right at the camera… He looks happy.
We were up at the cabin that September. 1938. The weather was glorious – bright sun, and the air cool enough to keep us comfortable. We were hiking the hills, doing a little climbing. Just the three of us up there for the two weeks before Jules joined us.
I noticed right away that something was wrong. Stefan and Lukas wouldn’t touch each other, would hardly look at each other. Both of them rigid as starched collars. I couldn’t understand. If they’d separated, surely they wouldn’t have come on holiday together.
We stopped for lunch at the top of the ridge that first afternoon, and they sat one on either side of me while we ate in awkward silence.
“All right, what the heck is going on?”
Stefan opened his mouth to speak, but Lukas shook his head. Short, sharp. Stefan glared, hurt and angry, but subsided.
I turned to Lukas. “Tell me.”
His soul twisted in the depths of those beautiful blue eyes as he met my gaze and lied. “There’s nothing to tell.”
“She’s been in France,” Stefan said.
“So she doesn’t understand.”
“So tell me. Please.”
“The SS,” Stefan said. “There have been raids, arrests, disappearances. It isn’t safe to be… what we are.”
Lukas turned away. “We aren’t anything.”
I could see Stefan’s face. I saw his heart break, right in front of me.
“You’re safe with me.” It was all I could think of to say.
The afternoon was just as silent and painful as the morning, but back at the cabin after supper, Lukas let Stefan take him by the hand, pull him out under the stars.
It was like old times after that. Until Jules came.
We were horsing around when we took that picture, playing with the self timer on the camera. It was our last day at the cabin and spirits were high. Jules had shut himself inside with his endless paperwork. We didn’t expect to see him until supper.
We must have disturbed him.
It started as a shove, playful, because Lukas was so poised in front of the camera. So perfect. So beautiful. Stefan gazed at him and smiled the smile that lit up his face. The shove turned into a caress, fingers teasing in the fine hairs on the back of Lukas’ neck.
Jules could see what the camera couldn’t. Jules could see the look in Stefan’s eyes. There was no lie that would convince him.
I wrote this for the Geist Postcard Story Competition, which involves writing a 500-word story that is tied to a single image. I found this picture on the Wikimedia Commons, saw the German names and the caption date of 1938, and… well. (I make no inferences about the lives or sexualities of the people in the picture – the story is entirely fictional.) I found out two days ago that I didn’t win the competition, but I’m still very pleased with how the story turned out, so I decided to share it here.