by Melisa R., Age 13
, Grade 8, Somis School, Somis, CALIFORNIA USA
Teacher: Mrs. Gass
The fog outside had covered the windows entirely. I used my hand to unblemish it as I peered outside to check for a trace of something. The fog had covered the city of Weimar in Germany like a cold, chilling blanket. It was so chilling that when we stepped outside, we were hit by the gust of gushing coldness slapping us in the face like a chilled hand. I heard nothing but the constant chirps of birds singing outside. All was quiet and still...I assumed, for the windows were too blurred for me to make out any images beyond the windows. Suddenly, I heard my younger sister of 8 come out of our room that we shared. It was such a quiet morning, I thought. I have never really woken up this early. I was patiently waiting for a sign of anybody coming toward the house.
“When will you meet us?” Sophia asked as she walked into the room. My mother gave her a small hug and helped her put on her sweater.
“We don’t know for sure, but we’ll send letters as much as we can. It won’t be long,” my mother assured her. I turned away from the window, rolling my eyes at Sophia.
“Don’t be such a baby. We can wait it out.” Sophia stuck out her tongue at me. As Sophia and I continued to bicker, mother and father began to put our lunches in our bags.
“John! Come here! We are about to leave!” called my mother. A tall and skinny awkward boy of 15 came out from the doorway nearby.
“I think I can handle it dad,” he said rudely as father offered to put his lunch in his bag.
“Someone’s in a bad mood,” I said as I looked at the ceiling and puckering my lips, moved my head side to side.
“Be quiet Emilia.” He shoved me aside.
“You’re just mad that you have to say goodbye to Marielle!” Sophia taunted.
“Your girlfriend!” I laughed.
“She’s only my friend!” John yelled.
“Well, you want her to be more than that, don’t you?” I smirked.
“Shut up you little…” John curled up a fist and was starting to walk slowly towards me.
“Do not treat her like that John. I know this is a hard day today, but we got to get through it,” said my mother sternly.
John groaned. “Can we just go already? I don’t want anyone to see us go.”
I sighed. I didn’t want to leave the house, and leave mother and father behind. They were going to send us down to a local shop owned by a fairly old lady named Mrs. Goudora. There John, Sophia, and I would hide from the green police and the officers that were taking many of us Jews. Hitler is our president, and he has agreed to execute all the Jews. I don’t see that there is anything wrong with us, but they blame us for losing the war they currently just had and they say that they are the supreme race, and we are not. They think we should disappear or go away and they believe we killed God, but I don’t believe that, and that war is long far from our minds now. There is now another war, WWll, and we are trying hard to stay out of it. Many Jews get taken away to concentration camps and disappear, and I wonder how such a thing could be so vile. You know, I just wish we could be treated the same. What did we ever do to be treated like criminals?
“Mother!” called Sophia “I see Mrs. Goudora coming!” We scurried like mice toward the window and I indeed saw a plump woman struggling to run toward the door, squinting to see through the fog.
“Go John! Go open the door for her!” yelled mother at John. A knock was heard through the door. He opened the door. I could not see her, but I heard her polite voice.
“Oh John, Hello! How are you?” I stood up and walked to the entrance with mother, and father. “Don’t be rude John, let her in!” said mother. John waved her in a bored manner.
“Ooh Anabelle, you have the most beautiful children!” she said as she hugged me and pinched Sophia’s cheeks.
Mother smiled. “Well they have more of Don’s looks,” she said sincerely.
“It’s quite chilly outside Goudora don’t you agree?” asked father who had come out of his room.
“Yes, well this is January,” she replied. She shook father’s hand of hello.
“Shouldn’t we leave already?” said John obnoxiously to Sophia.
“John, stop,” said father.
“No, no, no he’s right!” said Goudora, as she checked the clock on the wall, “it’s almost time for everyone to open shop.”
We all walked toward the door silently. First, John said his goodbyes.
“Take good care of them. I know you will!”
“Mum, I’m gonna be fine! Stop rustling my hair!” he yelled as he swatted my mum away.
Next was Sophia, who kept crying, then stopping, then crying again continuously.
“I don’t want to go mum!” My mother patted her head.
“Now, now Sophia… we have to do this… we planned this since weeks...”
Mother soothingly pushed her toward the door. Now it was my turn, and I tried very hard to not cry like Sophia, for a girl of 13 should act more mature. I kissed my mother on the cheeks and I hugged my father goodbye. I decided not to say nothing but, “write soon and stay safe.”
We stepped outside, and we walked out to the trail leading to the town from our house. Our house is very small, but fine for a family of five. I’m going to miss the house I must admit, for it was a very nice house, and I like how it is hidden from the town like a secret garden house. We walked past the garden, and I saw our swing, that was like a chair. I’m going to miss my swing, I thought. I had fun times inviting my friends over and occasionally boys. We would swing ourselves while some us sat on the grass eating our yogurt from one of the shops that allowed Jews to come named, “Dennie’s Shop.” I wondered if I would ever eat their delicious ice cream again, or just ice cream itself. It was chilly, and I felt glad we had worn more clothes to save space in our bags. Mrs. Goudora was holding Sophia’s hand as Sophia looked at all the buildings with a nervous face and John was looking rather pale as he looked behind looking cautiously around him. I was far behind so I ran next to John. There were few people in the streets and they stared as we went by, and I hoped that they didn’t suspect that we were going into hiding. I held my breath whenever someone came near me. After a couple of blocks, we had finally reached Mrs. Goudora’s local shop and coffee shop. John nudged my side.
“Ow, John!” I glared at him, then noticed he was hinting toward the sign at the top. Mrs. Goudora’s Lokalladen mit Kaffee*, with a picture of her holding a coffee pot and winking. John and I looked at each other. The shop smelled wonderful. There were piles of fruit and groceries in one section, and a whole coffee shop in the other with a cashier in the middle. I craved for some of the pastries and goodies shown near the coffee shop. “I had to take off the welcome Jews sign so that there is no suspicions,” said Goudora, as she set down her purse, and took off her fur coat. Sophia looked closely at the pastries. Mrs. Goudora noticed.
“Grab one sweetie.” She opened the little door, and Sophia picked a little muffin.
“You two as well.” She looked at John and me. John looked at the pastries and looked back at Mrs. Goudora with a disgusted face.
“No thanks,” said John. I elbowed him.
“Oh that’s alright go ahead!” Goudora pushed him to the cabinet.
“Hey hey hey! Get your hands off me I said no!” he pushed her chubby hands away.
“At least get one for me!” Sophia said.
“John!” I glared at him.
“He’ll take one,” I said.
“Right John?” I looked at him through gritted teeth.
“Fine. Whatever...I guess,” he shrugged. He opened the cabinet.
“If you don’t want one remember get one for me!” Sophia yelled.
I laughed with Mrs. Goudora.
“Oh Sophia, you are quite energetic like your mum!”
John reached for salty bread in the corner. I reached for a nice cupcake with white icing and sprinkles shaped like hearts. “Thank you,” Sophia and I recited. We looked at John. He seemed to be looking at the coffee pot.
“Let me guess, John. You want a little drink as well,” I said rudely. He was being so rude! He didn’t even say thank you and we had just entered, and he was already asking for a whole meal!
“No. This coffee smells expired,” he turned his back on us, and Mrs. Goudora chuckled.
“That’s just the smell dear.”
“No it’s not, it smells way off.”
“Its green tea, dear.”
“Exactly, it smells rotten and disgusting. I assume three days on open?” he slid his finger on the pot, “And it has not been washed correctly I can see.”
“It has John,” I interrupted, “you just want to look smart in front of us!” They both ignored me.
“That is the smell John. I have added a few ingredients to it to make it sweeter. And the smell is just the effect.” She didn’t sound so sweet this time.
“Follow me now children,” she led us to another room. I could tell that when she had said children, John was going to object, but he only stuffed the bread back into his mouth and kept quiet. She led us to a door that she opened with a key.
“This is to make sure that no one will be able to get in but me,” she assured Sophia. Then, we entered and saw nothing, but an empty room.
“This a GREAT hiding place Mrs. Goudora! REAL great,” said John as he slowly clapped.
“Look up, John.” said Goudora. We did, and we saw a little door on the roof, a basement if you will. Goudora reached for the handle with a little stepper that was in the corner and pulled the door. A ladder came down slowly. That shut up John’s clapping.
“After you,” she said to me. I looked up and saw darkness. I took a deep breath and climbed the ladder. The more I climbed the sweatier my palms became, the harder it became to climb. I finally reached the top, and stepped onto the floor. Behind me came John then Sophia then Mrs. Goudora. There was another door.
“Open it dear, it is unlocked,” she said. I opened the door, and found a pair of stairs upstairs, with a flowerpot filled with dead flowers nearby.
“Oh dear!” blushed Goudora, “How embarrassing. I forgot to take them out yesterday. I didn’t mean to make you more nervous than you all must already be! I’ll just take them out when I come back.” We continued on, and climbed the stairs to lead to yet another door. We all looked at Goudora.
“Another one?” asked John,“I think we feel pretty safe already with a crazy lady below us serving expired tea to other people watching over us.” Goudora ignored him, and so did I and Sophia. We opened the door, and found a room packed with a living room, and a kitchen. The kitchen was very small, and the stove and sink were tightly packed together, with a small kitchen table surrounded by small chairs. We walked through the halls finding three rooms. One for each of us, even though one of them was meant for mum and dad. It was quite comfy and immediately I took off my shoes and left my bag in my room that had a bed with a desk. I took off most of my clothes off except a cotton dress that is my favorite. I also fixed my hair into a ponytail and ran into the living room. The living room had two couches. One long and sleek, and the other one made for one person, and soft.
“I think you should all enjoy the basement for right now, I have to go down to the shop now for my customers! Bye bye now I will be back soon.” She pranced toward the door. John snorted.
“Goodbye,” said Sophia who had come out of her room. She left, and we continued to explore the rest of the house for the time being of boredom.
~ ~ ~
All day we paced around the rooms, ate some of the food, and listened for conversations downstairs. There are not many things you could do if you have to do them quietly.
“How about we write mother and father a letter?” I suggested.
“Yes!” said Sophia. John shrugged.
And so our afternoon went, writing our parents a letter explaining how boring it was here and how much we miss them already. We also told them about how nice it felt to be able to wear socks all day so that we wouldn’t be able to make much noise walking to places.
“Well it’s much better than the dressing shoes mum makes us wear,” Sophia said. We all nodded our heads in agreement. Mum can never get us the right pair. She’s quite forgetful sometimes. Sometimes she even buys me shoes two sizes too small! Therefore, I give them to Sophia instead. Anyway, shoes don’t last us very long. We grow more and more on the week I presume!
As we finished our sentences John took the paper.
“I want to write something,” he said thoughtfully.
Sophia and I collected the color pencils to let John write in peace. I do fancy the color orange, I thought as I picked up an orange pencil. John finished up his writing and smiled proudly at his work. I grabbed the paper. John wrote to them about some new jacket he wanted that he saw in a magazine. I looked at him and he shrugged shyly. I read what he said aloud.
“I really want this jacket in the Veron Magazine. It’s not a lot, here’s a picture in the envelope. I merely suggest that this jacket will make me look more dashing, and I will love you forever if you do get it for me,” he wrote.
“Oh John, and who’s going to look at you in that jacket if we are here? Hmmm?” I asked.
“Well, when we get out of here of course!” Sophia said. I looked at John. Not that we weren’t hopeful that this will all be over soon, but I’m pretty sure that there were more possibility that we would be here for a long time, than for fewer time.
“For Marielle! Ooh!,” Sophia interrupted the silence. John blushed for a moment then his face scrunched up.
“Hey! Stop it!” He always gets so embarrassed when we talk about Marielle, a well known friend of his. Sophia and I have had our own suspicions that they liked each other. And what am I to say it was not a bad idea! They are always together, it’s quite charming! It’s such a shame that they won’t be able to see each other for a while…. I would have liked to see how it all would have turned out. We went back to writing the letter and finished with us hoping they are safe and well.
“You two are making me sound like a child missing his mummy and daddy,” John said.
“So? It’s not like anyone else is going to read this,” I said.
“Whatever.” I didn’t know what else to do anymore. It was barely the first day, but that’s how long it took for us to be bored of everything. What else could you do in a basement not allowed to go out in 1940 in a cold January?
“Look Emilia!” called Sophia.
“Be quiet!” I both yelled and whispered to her, “We are supposed to be quiet!”
“Oh right. Well, anyway, look what these customers are saying!”
I ran next to her, and put my ear on the floor.
“No, no, no Heron… No need. I got it, I’ll pay…. Anyway, how long until Hitler speeds up the motion on the elimination of Jews?”
“Who knows Kyle...I say we should do something about it though…”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean we should become part of the green police, and stop the Jews!”
“Heron, where did this come from?”
“Think about it! We can be handsome men in professional uniforms! Who knows… it’ll attract some females along with it, don’t you think?
“You are too much sometimes.”
“I’m serious! Maybe you’ll find yourself a nice lady!”
“Stop trying to convince me. I’m not going to do it for… for women. There’s more things that come along with being a police.”
“Well, it’ll be entertaining breaking into Jew's house and taking them away! C’mon Heron. We can be-”
“You’re crazy Heron. Ma'am? I’ll take the bill please?...Thanks.. I’d better go..”
“Think about it Kyle. We could be heroes.”
“To who? The discriminators or the Jews?”
“Why not both? I say we let some Jews get taken away and locked someplace, or killed. How bout’ we give them an option eh? That’ll be nice!”
“That’s impossible. They all die in the end... Goodbye Heron.”
I looked up and saw Sophia biting her nails. She does that when she was nervous.
“You see? This is not only affecting us, but other people!”
“Stop stalking you two, let’s prepare dinner,” John came out of his room.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that conversation though. I have never actually thought about how many other people are having problems like us Vehussen’s. I didn’t stop thinking about it even throughout the whole day. And that night, I had a dream that I wasn’t a Jew. It was weird for no one treated me different, nor did they restrict me from entering a certain place. I also didn’t have to wear that stupid yellow star to separate me from others. I was back living in my house, and I swang on my swing until the moon came out, then I would go to sleep and dream about the next day, but when I woke up, I found myself in my bed, in the basement. I groaned, and went back to sleep. How I wished the dream could have gone a bit longer.
The next day, we awoke to the sound of broken glass. We all rushed to the windows to take a look.
“It’s Dennie’s shop!” gasped Sophia.
Indeed it was. I suspected because it allowed Jews to come in, and things were starting to get rough around here. We heard policemen telling the owner to come out.
“Look Dennie, we gave you a warning to take off the dang sign a month ago. You still have it, so it’s time to get serious.” I couldn’t see very well, for if we opened the curtains more they might see us.
“But they’re my customers! They do no harm!”
“God Dennie. Just do it and this will be all over!”
“You broke my windows!”
“We have to do this Dennie. We need to get rid of them.”
“You have to. Not me.”
“Are you on their side?”
“I don’t want to be part of anything.”
“Well how about we search your home for Jews, you Jew lover!”
“NO!” It was silent. And I saw Dennie standing in front of his shop spreading his arms wide to protect his already damaged building.
“Then no sign.” The policemen grabbed the sign, and marched off to leave a stunned Dennie standing in front of his shop. I looked up at John.
“What a coward. He should have stood up for himself,” he said.
“You wouldn’t have done that!” Sophia said.
“Yes I would have. Now time for breakfast,” he said.
That was a good idea for Mrs. Goudora to take off the sign I thought, or this could have happened to us next! Then they would have ransacked the building, and then we would have been found! I shivered. It was a cold chilling thought, that scared me pale, whenever I thought of being found. I went down to the kitchen with Sophia and John.
After breakfast we decided to lay at the living room and read for a while. We heard openings of doors. Then I heard little taps of high heels on the floor. We looked at each other. The door opened suddenly, and Mrs. Goudora came in. I was so surprised I fell off the couch. John pointed at me and laughed.
“Hello children!” said Goudora, “How was the first night?” She helped me stand up.
“Comfortable,” said Sophia.
“We have a letter for mum and dad,” said John. Goudora beamed.
“I knew you were all nice children who would write back to your parents!”
“Right… I’ll go and get it…” said John who then disappeared into the halls. I bet he was glad to get out of there. He came back and handed it to her.
“I have brought you all little goodies!” she said handing them to us.
“But I must go, or suspicions! I will deliver this letter at lunchtime.”
She ran back outside. I looked back at my book. Day 2, and there was nothing more to do in this tiny space. I decided to go to the window and saw many people buzzing through the streets. I wondered how my friends were doing. I peeped down at Dennie’s shop, and saw that people still entered even with the ravishing look. After what seemed like a while, I wondered what the other two were doing. I walked back to the living room and saw Sophia holding bread in her hand and had her ear pressed against the floor. I sat next to her and listened too. Nothing but the ordinary buzz of people walking in the shop, and out. I also heard Mrs. Goudora shrilly laughter as she bid a customer farewell.
“OH MARCUS! You are so humorous! Bye bye now, take care!”
Sophia and I snorted at this.
It seemed there was not much to do when you must not make a lot of noise, and with little bit of space. John was supposed to help us continue with our studies while mother and father allowed him to stop his for the time being, but John simply thought of it like a blessing to stop his studies but a babysitting job to help us with ours.
“You silly nitwit! You complain how there is nothing to do but yet you don’t want to teach us.”
We were eating dinner, cold mashed potatoes, and Sophia and I have asked him to read us a book after. He said no as we suspected, but it was worth a try. Later that day, Mrs. Goudora came in just like she said.
“Hello children. I have a letter from your parents. Tomorrow I will bring you some more food, but I have to be careful not to be seen carrying a basket with books, groceries, and letters.” She set down the basket down the table in the kitchen like always. Sophia and I peeked in it. There were books. We looked at each other, then at John who shook his head slowly.
“Now listen, I have an announcement before I depart,” said Goudora.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. It was not time for bad news to start, I thought.
“Nothing… well I know it’s rather much to ask of you… but you all have to cooperate.” She glanced nervously at all of us, and sat at the edge of the table.
“For what exactly?” I asked. I looked at Sophia, and caught her chewing on her nails like it was some sort of corn on the cob.
“Nothing! Nothing but that you must all be quiet. You are allowed to make as much noise as you please at 3:00 through 4:00 at noon, when I close temporarily, and at 8:00 when I close shop…”
“What? That’s absurd! That’s only a few hours of noise! This is so stupid!” John said as he slammed his hand on the table.
“Oh dear!” exclaimed Goudora, and she got off the table.
“John please!” I said to him as I sat him back down. He shoved me.
“I don’t need help to sit down Emilia, I’m perfectly capable,” John muttered.
“Maybe not, but you need help controlling your temper!” I shot back.
“We can do it Mrs. Goudora ,” Sophia said. John and I stopped fighting and looked at Sophia. She was already pushing Goudora out the door.
“Goodbye Mrs. Goudora! Yes yes we can do it!”
“Well then! I’ll see you in the next few days then dear!” said Goudora as she left out the first door. When the door closed, Sophia went up to the letter in the basket and tore it open. I guess Sophia is being more grownup than either me or John arguing like little children. She read the letter aloud. It said how they were to meet us somewhere between 3-8 weeks. How disappointing I thought. They also spoke about how they wanted us to write more to them, and how hopefully we were enjoying our stay. We decided to go to sleep after we had read the letter for there was nothing else to do. But that night was different. Bombs from beyond and the screaming and yelling of people were heard. I ran to Sophia’s room and found her already snuggling with John. I joined them, and together we heard the horrors coming from outside our windows. Sophia slowly weeped, and John stood still. I myself was shaking and I was now more awake than ever. It seemed as if all the tiredness I had before had gone. I held hands with Sophia and John, though at one point we all let go because of the noises that have gotten louder, and the echoes rang in our ears. That’s when we covered our ears, but it was useless. I don’t know what time it was when we finally slept. I was scared to go to sleep, you see, for I knew if I tried… I would have horrible nightmares of being sent away, forever to my death.
~ ~ ~
I wrote back to mother and father and I complained about John not helping us. I had begun to read with Sophia by ourselves because we really needed something to do. I also wrote to them about the bombs. I know they were bound to have heard them, so I told them about how scary it was and how I wished they could be with us. I sealed up the letter, and went up to the window. John pulled me back, and shook his head. We had all agreed that at the times we had to be quiet, we would stay at one place and not move much. I now know why John reacted the way he did when he heard we had to do this. I see it as like another way to reduce our freedom. I shouldn’t complain because many of us have no safety, and we are just lucky enough to not have been sent to concentration camps.
I slowly tried to walk back to the doorway, but John grabbed my hand and whispered, “No Emilia! Once you go somewhere, you stay there! If I have to do these rules, you have to do them too.”
So that was that. I stayed in the room until 4:00, then I ran about the basement. I am not stupid. I know I can’t shout or bang pans together. That would still attract people’s attention.
Weeks passed and more letters from our parents came. They did not bring good news. Many of my friends from my Jewish school have disappeared or taken to camps. Mother said she was sorry that my good friend Isabelle had been taken to a camp where she has perished. I couldn’t believe it. When I heard the color from my face drain out, and my insides churned. This couldn’t be! Mum and dad tried to change the topic and asked us things other than depressing topics. They told me that it was good that me and Sophia had continued to study. They said they would solve things with John. John didn’t like this one bit.
“If they tell me I have to go back to my studies, I will beat you two!”
They also said that they heard the bombs, and that they were okay, and they heard about Dennie’s as well. Mrs. Goudora came that day, bringing us fruit for once.
“Strawberries far from where I can see!” yelled Sophia.
“Thank you! Thank you Mrs. Goudora!” I hugged her.
“Whatever..um..yeah thanks..” murmured John.
“I also brought you all glass cups for your enjoyment!” she handed us each one. Mine was encrusted with little hearts. I looked over at Sophia that had flowers instead, and John’s with lighting bolts. He smirked.
“All the way from France! I thought they would be a nice little gesture,” said Mrs. Goudora proudly, with hands together.
“Are you serious? Really? Lighting Bolts? I’m 15, going 16 next month. This is immature don’t you think? Something meant for a nine year old?”
“Well, well, well John. I didn’t know you knew what is childish and what is mature. You certainly are a living example of true immaturity, and headstrongness, and certainly stubbornness,” I said.
“Shut up you,” he shoved me.
“Be careful Sophia!” screeched Mrs. Goudora. Sophia was putting her glass cup on a high cupboard.
“Sophia!” I yelled. I grabbed her cup from her hand, and set it on the table.
“What? I just wanted to make sure it would be in a safe place.”
“Then I will put it for you,” I told her. I put it inside the cupboard and patted her on the head.
“I’m eight, not six,” she waved my hand away.
“Oh! I thought you were six honey, oh my!” said Goudora. We all giggled, and angrily, Sophia stormed out of the room.
After dinner, we all sat on the living room and sat quietly. I looked at the clock. It was barely 7:05. Still about an hour until we could make noise. Sophia was on the couch lying on her side, staring at nothing. John was passing a little ball from each hand on the next small sitting couch. I was on the floor, and I was drawing and writing how the basement looked.
“Psst, you guys!” I whispered.
“What?” asked Sophia, who had stopped staring blankly into space.
“Be quiet you two!” John said.
“What should we name this basement?” I asked ignoring him.
“You mean, like a nickname?” asked Sophia who sat up straighter.
“That’s absurd…” said John thoughtfully.
“But..?” I asked him.
“But there’s nothing else to do...so I guess if we shall...”
They joined me on the floor, and Sophia helped me color, and John helped me draw more detailed. In the end we came up with the name, “The hiding place.” Simple as it was, but I had told them about my opinion. I told them how all this seemed like a big scary game of hide and seek. So we agreed on the name, even though Sophia wanted to put it as “Our Safe home.” But we all know that was a lie. This basement didn’t feel like home at all, or safe enough.
“I think we can all agree on just the hiding place,” I said. They both nodded and that was that.
“I miss my swing,” I said all of a sudden.
John and Sophia stopped working and looked at me.
“I miss my friends,” Sophia said.
“I miss Marielle,” John whispered. Sophia looked at me.
“So you did like her?” I asked softly.
“Maybe...yeah…” he said slowly. He sighed.
“Yes. Yes I did,” he looked down and smiled. I smiled. So I was right! I knew it was true! Huzza!
“Awww,” Sophia said. John stopped smiling and looked up.
“But it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m never going to see her again. And we are never going to see your swing of your friends ever again,” John said fiercely to me and Sophia.
“I miss my freedom,” I said.
We nodded. I checked the clock and it was now 9:10. We stood up, and headed to our rooms. I had a nightmare that night about being found. I don’t know how we were found, we just heard knocking on the door and we opened it up. Three policemen came charging in and grabbed us. I screamed and reached for Sophia and John.
John was fighting back, but the men were buff and tall. It was no use. Sophia was hit unconscious and was dragged outside. Mrs. Goudora came inside and yelled “I tried to stop them! I’m so sorry!” They pushed her outside. I looked for John, and he too was lying unconscious on the floor and was dragged outside. I looked up and cried out, “Why?!” I looked at the man who held me, and he hit me with a hard object, and dizzily I fell unconscious myself. I woke up sweating and gasping. I coughed loudly. John ran into the room and covered my mouth.
“Shh you nitwit!”
Sophia came in as well, and pushed John aside. She handed me a handkerchief.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes... thanks,” I muttered.
“You better not be getting sick you dunderhead. You know we can’t have a doctor come over and take a look at you,” John swatted my forehead.
“Thanks for the consent, John. I had a nightmare that’s all. A rather scary one,” I said.
“Yeah well, you’re not the only one these days. It’s been rough,” said John seriously. He sat on my bed and looked down playing with his hands.
“You? Nightmares? HAHA I bet not! And you admit it? That’s a hoot!” said Sophia. She jumped on the bed. I was feeling rather squished for the beds were not that wide, and neither were the rooms.
“I’m being serious. This is pretty awful stuff that’s going on around here. So awful that it comes to haunt me at night,” said John who looked hurt.
“Yeah Sophia, just because he’s a wannabe man, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have feelings too!” I said. Me and Sophia giggled. John sighed, stood up and left. As he did he muttered, “none of you understand..it’s so hard to be here with…oh nevermind… I’m getting out..”
Sophia stood up too and said, “Well, I’m starving, join me for breakfast soon.” She hugged me then left me, and I smiled faintly after her. I felt so guilty. I have never seen that side of John before. He was finally owning up to himself. This hiding place has really changed him to become more mature… and all I have done is ridicule him. I sat there and thought about how horrible me and Sophia were to him. He has to be here babysitting us! And he can’t help being so stubborn… it’s his way of letting his anger out; his frustration. All he wants is to be with Marielle again….We are all young here… we deserve to be living our lives, but people don’t seem to like us. We are Jews and that’s that. If we are Jews, we cannot be allowed to go to the cinema. If we are Jews, we are not allowed to go into a store without a sign that says ‘Jews Welcome.’ If we are Jews, we are not allowed to use trams anymore. This and that, that and this no more. Not allowed. I thought about Sophia. How she was acting more grown up than John and I? That’s not the way it should be though, I thought. We should should be the ones to show her how things are done. We are supposed to be good examples for her, but instead it’s the other way around. I wish I could go back to time, back to when I was at my own house with mum and dad, back to when I was swinging on our swing with my friends. I started crying.
“When will this end?” I asked myself aloud, “Why is it us? What did we do? Why me?” I rocked back and forth holding my blanket close to me. Suddenly, there were blasts of gunshots, and glass being broken heard from outside my windows. I gasped, then slowly I wiped my tears with the back of my hand. “It can’t be better than this,” I muttered sarcastically.
~ ~ ~
A year had passed, and I was now fourteen, John sixteen, and Sophia nine. No parents in the hiding place. They couldn’t. It was becoming dangerous even to step outside even in your own porch. I definitely wanted them to be safe, and if I could not see them, then it had to be. I didn’t want them to be hurt. Not many had changed but that now Sophia was taller, and John had gained more weight and became nicer and more mature, and I myself was growing to be a proper lady. Sophia and I have not had any nightmares or anything. We have gotten used to everything, but John isn’t. Sophia and I often hear him at night crying and sobbing. We once peeked inside, and saw him holding a picture of Marielle. I told Sophia to got into her room. I stepped inside.
“What?” he looked up and frantically wiped his tears with the back of his hand.
“Why are you spying me?” He stood up from his bed.
“John...I’m sorry... It’ll be okay…” I gently patted him. He sighed.
“It’s just that I miss her….” he sat down on his bed once again.
“Well yeah, we can all agree we miss our friends,” I sat next to him.
“Well yeah...but I really liked her. I needed to tell her that I like her.”
“Then why didn’t you?” He looked at me. His eyes were full of tears. We were silent. He cried into his hands and shook madly. I was surprised. He stopped crying for a moment and wiped his cheeks.
“I didn’t want to ruin her life. I was already going into hiding, I- I didn’t want her to have to worry for me.”
“I wanted her to be someone that would be by her side to protect her.”
“Marielle deserves you.”
“But I don’t deserve Marielle. She is too good for me. I have to do what I have to do,” he looked at the ceiling, and he was trying hard not to start to cry. He looked at me. “I have to let her go.”
I never had any real feelings for any boy except for this one boy in my class that was named Adal. He liked me, and I kind of liked him back, but then he disappeared one day, nearly to the date of the day we went into hiding. So, I reckon he must be in hiding as well, which is good. I hope we see each other again. We were very good friends actually, and we used to go to Dennie’s together with my friends, but I know what John felt for Marielle was real, and strong. I knew it must kill him to be separated from her. It was a really sad night for him, and I continued to hear his sobs every night, but this time, I didn’t bother him.
Now, it is the beginning of a new day.
“Sophia come…let’s try this today,” whispered John. It was 9:46 in the morning,and John had finally stepped up to help us with our studies. He was holding up the History of Rome.
“Sure, okay,” she whispered back.
I walked over near the couch and sat on the floor with my paper and pencils. It was a peaceful day and I had not heard any violence so far. The sun’s light could still be seen from behind the curtains and I could feel the nice breeze gently blowing inside to the Hiding Place.
“My mouth got dry all of a sudden,” Sophia whispered, “I’m getting water!” She got up slowly and went for her glass cup.
“Be careful Sophia,” John said softly after her. Then, she peeked at my drawing of a beach.
“Do you even remember how a beach looks like?” he smirked. Sophia laughed from the kitchen. I shrugged shyly and bowed down to color some more.
“Oh!” We both turned around and gasped. Sophia was on a chair reaching for her glass cup and slipped.
I stood up. Everything seemed to go in slow motion. She fell, and her glass cup shattered in pieces on the floor. The usual buzz of people downstairs stopped. John was wide eyed and his mouth was wide opened. Sophia laid on the floor and looked at the shattered pieces and then at us.
“I-I’m so sorry,” she whispered. I helped her up, and John walked up to Sophia.
“What have you done?” he whispered.
BANG. I winced. We heard the first door open. “Over here!” I heard a rough deep man’s voice boom. I hugged Sophia and John. We all looked at the door.
“Please there’s nothing to see! That was my cat!” I heard Mrs. Goudora say.
“No it was something else,”said a man. He sounded familiar. It was Heron, the man we had heard before in the shop.
We heard shoes climbing up the stairs that thundered loudly. It seemed like an eternity until they finally opened the last and final door. My heart was beating loudly in my chest. My cheeks and eyes burned. I struggled to keep them open. I felt like I was going to faint and the room seemed to be spinning around and I felt like I could barely stand up because I felt so weak. It was like my nightmare. The stranger’s grabbed us.
“Call the police Heron,” one of them said.
“Will do,” said Heron. He pushed Mrs. Goudora who had just come inside, aside.
I knew it had to be him.
“N-no,” I whispered. I frantically looked at John. He looked back at me frightened. Sophia was completely frozen in fear. I was shaking, and after what seemed like five minutes, Heron and policemen came in.
“You all did well,” the leader said to all, “you may leave.” The strangers let us go and exited. The new policemen surrounded us.
“Get her out,” he said to the policemen next to him. He nodded, and told Mrs. Goudora, “We’re going to need you to go back to that kitchen of yours.”
“No, no, no, no,” she told them,“I can’t.”
“You can, and you will,” he said pushing her out.
“I’m sorry children! I really am!” She told us. The door closed behind her. Our only hope, was gone.
“You have five minutes to pack a small bag,” said the leader. We nodded and we scurried to the hall.
“We have to do something!” said Sophia once we were safely out of earshot.
“No..we can’t,” I said hopelessly.
“What were you thinking Sophia? Going up on heights like that?” John yelled.
“Please John! Don’t you realize? We will never see mum and dad again! We might never see each other again!” I said. We looked at each other, and hugged.
“I-I’m sorry,” John said looking at Sophia.
“I should be, I did this,” Sophia looked disgusted at herself, and tears slid smoothly down her cheeks.
“It could have been any of us…” I said.
A guard came to stand guard and kept watch. So, we went into our rooms and packed for our departure. I packed clothes, a brush, and dressed in comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes. I stepped outside my room to see John and Sophia already at the living room. We were pushed out the doors, down the stairs, and out the other door, and the other door. I felt ashamed. All of Mrs. Goudora’s customers watched us being pushed outside. Mrs. Goudora gasped and tried to get to us, but Heron put his arm in front of her and shook his head slowly at her. We were pushed outside and saw three different cars waiting.
“One for each of you. You better say your goodbyes now in a hurry, or you won’t say any,” the leader said sternly.
I looked at them and we all hugged. It felt all so strange, my heart was hurting so bad, and my eyes were filling with tears.
“Don’t leave me,” Sophia said, “Please Emilia, Please John.”
“I love you all,” I said.
“I don’t want you to leave me,” Sophia cried.
“I don’t want to leave you either,” John whispered.
“Alright that’s it,” said the leader, “each in one car, doesn’t matter which one, pick your favorite if you want,” he said sarcastically. All the cars were the same, sleek and black. We stopped hugging, and my heart burned and I saw Sophia crying as she stepped into her car.
She took one last look at me and John and whimpered, “Don’t leave me….Please...no...” She began to yell and bang on the window. “NO I DON’T DESERVE TO DIE!” she screeched madly.
I took a step forward. The guard pushed me back.
“Hey, that’s my sister you’re pushing, and that’s my other sister in the car,” said John darkly. The guard raised his eyebrow. “My sister is only nine. She is NINE,” John stood up straighter.
The guard turned around, and made a motion to the driver to go. The car moved, and I could see Sophia banging louder on the window with tears streaming down her face.
“NO!” she screamed. Just as she had been here, she was gone. John cried out in frustration and looked at me.
“She didn’t deserve this…” he muttered with a fist curled up by his side.
The guard motioned to John to come.
“I…. I don’t know how I can say this,” said John to me.
“John…” I whispered.
“I don’t want to say goodbye, I don’t know if I can,” he stuttered.
I looked at him.
He looked at me blankless. John was pushed into his car, and the door slammed shut behind him. He looked at me through the windows. He looked down ashamed, and the car drove past. Then I was pushed. I couldn’t believe it. It really is all over. Goodbye John, Goodbye Sophia, Goodbye mother and father…. Goodbye life…
~ ~ ~
I was now so skinny; I couldn’t believe I was still alive. It has been three weeks since I had come to Auschwitz. I didn’t speak to anybody. I haven’t eaten anything than some bread that I had crammed into my jacket the day we were found. I ate little by little per day… till one day it was gone. I haven’t slept. How could I with all of this happening? I was on the bed bunks and I have just finished from working outside in the day. They put us to construct new buildings for new Jews, but it was hard to work with the wheelbarrows in the condition of the place. There are too many ashes on the floor that makes it hard for the wheels to roll. As it’s June, it is hotter than usual, and makes the labor more tiring. I have to go back and forth, bringing bricks and wood around the camp. I thought about what they’ll do to us. Where we bound to get locked up in the end like Kyle said, or killed or... Losts in my thoughts, I was surprised when a guard came through the entrance. Everything suddenly went quiet. Everyone stood still.
“Good news. You are going to be set free! All you need to do is take a small shower, to clean the muck out of you all. When was it the last time you all took a shower?” he smiled. We all stood quietly and said nothing.
“It’s an order!” he said firmly. I gasped, and wasn’t the only one. We stood up and got in line.
“Hurry up,” he shouted.
I was frightened, and I ran with the others in a group and we were led outside. Mother’s with children were glancing nervously at the guards, and I was as well looking around at the group. I could already see a building ahead, when suddenly a skinny, bony, man collapsed.
“HALT,” the guards took the man and kicked his side. People gasped. The man did not move.
“He’s dead. Take him away to the burners,” one of the guards said.
Two guards picked up the man and walked again. Horrified, we continued walking.
“This will be enough,” the guard at the front held his hand in front of the group and we looked up at the building before us.
“Let’s go, hurry up!” The guards barked. We all jumped and we hurriedly went inside.
We were led to a room and we piled into a big room. We took off our clothes. Could this be true? Are we finally being set free? It doesn’t matter, I thought. This is all I could believe. This was my only hope.
“This way everyone,” said the guard. He led us to another room. I was one of the first ones to enter the room. It was largely spaced, and many of us piled inside of it. There were lightbulbs on the top of the ceiling. Mothers with children hugged each other.
“I can’t wait mummy! I will finally be able to play outside with my friends back at home!” Her mother smiled.
“Yes yes And we’ll see father again!” she said hopefully. I smiled to myself. I might be able to find Sophia, John and mum and dad again. The guards pushed the last people in. They stood at the entryway looking at all the buzzing faces looking about. They smiled back.
“All of you be quiet,” one of them said loudly. We shut up instantly.
“Now, I want you all to breathe deeply when the shower is going on, the gas will make you feel cleaner, and refreshed.” We nodded.
“Now I will close the door to make the shower better. Have a happy shower,” he said. Then they closed the door. The water began to pour from the sprinklers from above. The water was warm, and I closed my eyes. The lights dimmed, and weird dark powder came in from the ceiling. I guessed it was the ingredients to make the gas relaxing. I breathed deeply.
“Ahhhh,” I said slowly. I began to relax. I was finally going to be free. But wait. Something was wrong. I opened my eyes. I reached for my throat. It was dry, it was like I was about to choke. It was like a hand tightening my neck by every breath I took. I opened my mouth, and got some water from the sprinklers to hydrate my mouth. But suddenly I became dizzy. I looked next to me.
“Mum…. I don’t feel so good,” I heard the little girl tell her pale mum. Suddenly all noises of relief were replaced by screams and moans. I blinked slowly. They tricked us. They poisoned us those cheats. I am going to die, I thought, but I don’t want to die, I don’t deserve to die.... any of us!
I didn’t know what to do. I slowly slid down the wall where I was near, and crouched on the floor, and looked at all the people around me. Many had died already. I looked at the little girl with her mum. Arms in arms they were dead. Frozen together they were stuck to each other. I was horrified by all that I saw, and I whimpered softly like the hum of a bee. I could feel my eyes burning, and I was feeling so dizzy. I felt so weak, and I put my head against the wall. I looked up at the gas that reminded me of that foggy day in January that this had all started then I looked to the crowd once again and thought I saw Marielle. I used the rest of my energy to lift up my head to get a better look. It was. She was pale and skinny like me. She looked so fragile, like as if a single touch could blow her away, but wait.
She was dead. She had her eyes closed, and she was standing near a wall, leaning on it. Oh John…. I thought. Poor John….he never got to tell her how he felt. I thought about my family, and how I missed them. I thought how stupid I was to believe things were going to get better, because things don’t get better just like that. Why did we ever do to deserve this? Why is it us that deserve this fate? The many of us who had done nothing? Why is there many inequality in the world? My eyes were no longer wanting to cooperate with me, and I struggled to keep them open. I felt like as if my eyelids were heavy. Do not close them, I repeated in my mind. I thought about how I should’ve just thought better and hid under the bunks, or how I should’ve just moved into one of the cabins where the new people came in, and then I could just keep doing it over and over again, so they would never find me, or I should have pretended I were a guard, sneak into their dressing rooms.
But then I stopped.
I would rather be dead already, then to continue living like this, I thought. I don’t want to live in fear or in pain anymore. I would rather feel no pain at all. My throat felt like it was closing, and I began taking my last breaths. This is like a game of hide and seek, I thought. A game between Hitler and his followers vs. the Jews, and this is just what happens when you’re caught.