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!”