They came just after dawn. We watched them approach across the field, in their mid covered trucks. We saw the flames of our neighbours’ houses and outhouses. We heard their cries. We heard the shots.
Papa grabbed the shotgun, passed it to me and bundled me down into the cellar, eyes wide in panic, his finger pressed hard against his lips silently ordering me to be quiet. He grabbed my face in his rough calloused hands and kissed me fiercely on my forehead before closing the hatch and leaving me in the dusty darkness, peering up through the gap in the floorboards.
They crashed through the door like the brutes they were. The one in charge, wearing a grey and black peaked cap and ridiculous looking trousers, stepped out from behind the others and slammed the butt of his pistol into my dear Papa’s face. I bit down on my fist to muffle the cry of horror that threatened to break free from my lips.
“Wer ist da?!” he barked into Papa’s bloody face, “Wer ist da?!”
Another one stepped forward and spoke, “Qui d’autre est ici?” (Who else is here?)
Papa shook his head, “Personne. Je suis seul!” (No-one. I am alone!)
The soldier translated for his superior who then snapped some orders in his guttural voice and I watched as the others dragged my father from our farmhouse.
The one who spoke our language remained and cast his eyes around the kitchen, from ceiling to floor. As his eyes surveyed the wooden floorboards I involuntarily flinched. He stilled instantly and crouched down to peer through the gap in the strips, his eyes brilliantly blue and searching.
I froze, holding my breath, wishing I could make myself invisible. A small smile played on his lips as he rose back to standing, his head inclined in the slightest of nods and he turned to leave.
I remained in the cellar until my overwhelming need to use the toilet drove me from my sanctuary. I hesitantly opened the hatch and peeped out. All was silent. I crawled out of the cellar and quickly used the toilet. Once relieved, I searched the farmland and outhouse for Papa but he was gone. The smoke from our neighbours’ farms hung black on the horizon and I sank to my knees and wept. I was alone.
Exhausted from the morning’s events, I fell into a troubled sleep on the day bed in the kitchen, tossing and turning only to awake with a start, screaming from the nightmare that invaded my slumber. I sat upright, sweating and shaking, tears once again flowing down my cheeks. A sound from outside startled me – surely the sound was footsteps, very quietly at the other side of the door.
I hurried, as soundlessly as I could, towards the cellar hatch but the door swung open before I reached it.
He stood silhouetted in the light of the open door as I crouched by the hatch, like prey about to be captured.
“Haben Sie keine Angst, mein Kleiner, Ich werde nicht schaden,” he spoke softly before sighing and shaking his head, remembering that I could not understand him. His eyes skyward as he tried to find the right words, he spoke again, “Petit, ne soyez pas avoir peur. Je ne vais pas te faire du mal.” (Don’t be afraid little one. I will not hurt you.)
He squatted to my level and smiled at me, his long black leather boots creaking as he crouched. He took from his backpack some bread and cheese wrapped in wax paper and offered it to me. The kindness in his pale blue eyes conflicting with the insignia on his chest and everything it stood for.
This was how it began. The affair with the man that saved me, the man that protected me and hid me until the day, one day, when he never returned to my farmhouse.
My Franz. The man I came to love over the course of that summer before the Americans came, with their cigarettes and chocolate, to save us.
The man, whose bright blue eyes gazed back at me from my daughters face as I held her to my breast in the spring.
Copyright, 2015, illicitthoughts.wordpress.com
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Thanks to my consort of consultants… T, C and of course F x
Originally posted to: FFC