He gave a welcoming smile and stood while she took a seat across from him. “Freddy’s making a pick-up,” he said with a wink.
“Oh,” Louisa sighed.
“Hilde, the barmaid,” Kris remarked with a bellowing laugh. When Louisa didn’t react to his joke, he grew solemn. “Is everything all right?”
Louisa didn’t feel right in this world of post-war misfits; she didn’t want to acknowledge she indeed herself was one. “Yes. I just wanted to make sure Freddy was all right.” She got up to leave. “Glad to see he is.”
Kris caught her by the wrist to keep her from leaving. “You’re here. Sit. Have a drink.” He smiled. “Freddy gets to have time with a pretty girl, so should I.”
She hesitated, unsure, and then returned to her seat. “I can’t stay long.” She shifted her gaze around the bar; anything to avoid Kris’ entrancing stare.
He beckoned for another beer and lit a cigarette. Staring at her, he tried to find the similarities between her and his good friend. They had a slight sibling resemblance, but that was all. Freddy had a charm that was infectious, even to some men. Louisa had a deep, quiet soulfulness about her. She looked angelic in her purity—ivory skin with a touch of freckles on her nose, large blue eyes with a trace of darkness underneath. Her features were delicate as if to suggest she was not obtainable by the average man, but a doll to be admired by those who could afford her. Studying her innocent beauty, Kris realized he wanted to be more than just an ordinary man.
He dared to brush away her bangs and ran his fingers through her boyish haircut. “I don’t know who you think you’re fooling. You can’t hide being beautiful.”
“What do you mean?”
He puffed on his cigarette. “Allow me to let you in on a secret. Men see beauty, especially when it's not put on display, and this only makes them want it more.”
“I don’t believe you,” Louisa stated firmly. “My mother parades her beauty on a silver platter and men gobble it up. No man is ever tempted to take it from me.”
Kris leaned in toward Louisa, almost close enough that his lips were touching her cheek. “Because you’re a treasure and most men are taught not to steal.”
Louisa pulled away from him. Her blush of desire grew too strong to face his advance. “I just find all this debauchery disturbing. Did the war ruin all sense of decency?”
“Don’t underestimate the importance of sex. Sometimes it's all a person has,” Kris replied. “When a person has nothing but the touch of another’s skin, it can make them feel invigorated. A warm embrace can make another feel secure. The sensation of sex can fill an empty spirit even if it's only temporary. Sex gives life to those who have forgotten what it feels like to be alive.”