November 1940; Part II
Alwernia, Poland - That Same Night
I stared at Grandfather. His lips had gone so thin, I could barely see them by the dim candle-light, and Grandmother's eyes twinkled with fear. If I could move a single bone in my body, one that was not held down with suspense, I would have hid under the table like a frightened church mouse. Fear had imposed upon me - I was no longer the girl who could stand up to someone, stand her ground in the face of fear - though quietly; I had turned into something relevant to a mouse that twitched at the sight of a shoe, or speck of dust, and would hide under the pew.
Knock, knock knock KNOCK!
The rapid knocking became more urgent and Babcia gave me a look as if to ask if I had told anyone that I was here. Of course not! I didn't even have a chance to get outside unless it was to chase the chicken away back to the coop! Grandmother stood, her gray hair flying as she raced to the door and looked out of the peep hole the front door had. "Minka, child!" She whispered and beckoned me into the damp, dark hallway. "Did you invite any sort of boy over here?"
I quivered. "No!" My voice rose an octave higher and I shook from head to toe. A boy - well, at least that was a condolence; at least it wasn't a Nazi, coming to take us away and everything we've ever lived with. "Why is a boy out front, Grandmama?" My voice shook and shuddered with fear - could it perhaps be Alfred, with Sonne barking frantically outside on the front step, ready to fling himself into my arms and proclaim that my family was safe? Or stand on the step with his head down and tell me that they had been killed?
"I have no idea, Minka. Why don't you talk to him, then? Figure out why he is here and then close the door directly after you are done and bolt it straight back up." I nodded, however - me? Go make me get the door is almost suicide to my church mouse attitude at this moment in time. Nevertheless, I wanted to figure out who was here. And it was destined to be my job, according to Grandmama.
So thus with a shaking hand - I placed my fingertips on the cold, metallic, doorknob and inched the oak fixture open. The boy standing outside on the stoop - to my dismay, was no one I knew, or even recognized from school. He was small and shivering in the harsh November winds that swept over the hills and his cheeks were rosy red with wind-burn. Still, the anonymity's of the boy had me scared stiff.
"Yes?" My voice shook - weak and pathetically small. Who was I to be scared of a boy? Alas, it seemed I was afraid of everything lately.
"Are you Minka? Minka Wollsburglen?" His own voice was cheerful and bright - small and not yet crackling like Alfred's did. I nodded; how did this boy know my name, and what, pray tell, did he want?
Paranoia quickly set into my bones, rattling them even harder."Yes, I am. . . Who are you, if-if I may ask?" If he meant deceiving harm, here was his chance - I felt paralyzed on the spot I stood in the hallway. I was a very easy target to pick off.
The boy tipped his hat with one small hand, and the other reached into his coat pocket before pulling out a sheet of paper. "I'm a messenger boy; this arrived from Dresden, Deutschland for you. Good day, Minka!" He handed me the frail paper that had traveled so many miles and I shut the door. News. News from Dresden. News from home. At the same time - my heart both leapt and sunk. Bad news, good news, okay news? 'We're coming for you soon' news? I stood still - completely paralyzed in shock in the hallway.
Shaking, I opened the letter.
Everyone's safe. All is well.
We're in hiding, cannot say where.
No response needed.
Teach yourself well,
Cannot make it to Babcia and Dziadeck's.
Stay safe, love you and miss you.
Momma, Papa, Josef
News. Promptly, the note fell to the floor.
I was reduced to tears.
Babcia and Dziadeck's
Two, three, four months. Four long months of the stupid chicken getting stuck in the fence every morning. Four months of no responses since my tears in the hallway. Four months of bare survival. Hanukkah was barren. Our menorah was lost. Eight candles were sufficient enough to drag us through the eight days of the Festival of Lights. For the most part. I missed my family. After hearing one word from them in November, it gave me some sort of false, stupid hope. A stupid hope that maybe they fibbed and they were on their way to Alwernia right now to surprise me.
Four months of becoming so distraught that every time I touched my wand, all it did was gave a feeble splutter - and then I had no intention of following Momma's orders to teach myself. I began to withdraw from even Grandmama at the beginning of January. I was in distress - where were they? How could I be sure that they were safe and sound still?
I decided that yearning for them to come would not work. I neglected my poor self instead. Wallowed in my own self pity like a swimming pond. I followed Granda like a lost duckling around the house. My braids hung limp around my shoulders, some fraying into nasty curls. My gray eyes behind my glasses were empty and void. My reflection was atrocious. I couldn't withstand looking at myself in the spotted mirror. I didn't care if my glasses slid down my nose, I didn't care about anything. I don't know what became of me - It was like I was a shell. I no longer had the will to keep this up anymore. It was like a foreshadow of what was to come.
But Grandmama's talks kept me going on a day to day basis, if only for a while.
Even though they aren't here Minka, you're doing this for them. Be brave, child. I know you can do this, without a doubt.
Until that boy came around again.
This time with bad news.
When I had opened the door this time, snow blew into my already freezing temporary home. The same boy stood there - pacing on my stoop once more to keep warm. "H-Hello Minka!" He cheerfully spluttered, shivering from head to toe and reached into his pocket yet again, dragging out a note, this one a little bit more than rumpled and creased. The handwriting was very messy, as if the writer were rushed beyond comparison. It gave frantic chills up and down my spine as I closed the door and stared at it before uncrumpling it slowly, and sitting on a stair.
Josef is dead.
Killed by Nazis. -smudge- No longer safe.
-wet- We've been taken. Don't come home.
I love you, Minka Josefine.
- Momma and Papa
Dead? My brother. . .my baby brother - dead?