Catching the Wind(2)

By: Melanie Dobson


Brigitte leaned back in the window, her freckles glowing like a canvas of stars. “I shall make a wish on this tree, like Aschenputtel.”

“Should I capture the evil stepsisters?” he asked.

At times it seemed the threads of imagination stitched around her mind like rings of armor, the world of pretend cushioning her sorrow and protecting her from a real enemy that threatened all the German children. She was on the cusp of becoming a woman, yet she clung to the fairy tales of childhood.

“I want you to capture the wind.”

He laughed. “Another day, Brigitte.”

Her fists balled up against her waist. “Princess Adler.”

“Of course.”

Her gaze traveled toward the ladder nailed to the opening in the tree house floor. “I’m hungry.”

“You’re always hungry,” he teased.

“I wish we could find some Kuchen.”

He nodded. Fruits and vegetables were hard enough to obtain in the village; sweets were impossible to find, reserved for the stomachs of Hitler’s devoted. But his mother’s garden was teeming with vegetables. He and his father had devised a wire cage of sorts over the plot to keep rabbits away, though there seemed to be fewer rabbits in the woods this summer. More people, he guessed, were eating them for supper.

He’d never tell Brigitte, but some nights he felt almost hungry enough to eat a rabbit too.

“I’ll find us something better than cake.”

He left Princess Adler and her wind chimes to climb down the ladder, rubbing his hand like he always did over the initials he’d carved into the base of the trunk. D. R. was on one side of the tree, B. B. on the other.

He trekked the grassy riverbank along the Elzbach, toward his family’s cottage in the woods. Beside his mother’s garden, he opened a door made of chicken wire and skimmed his hand across parsnips, onions, and celery until his fingers brushed over a willowy carrot top.

Three carrots later, he closed the wire door and started to march toward the back door of the cottage, the carrots dangling beside him. He’d bathe their dirt-caked skin in the sink before returning to battle. Then he’d—

A woman’s scream echoed across the garden, and Dietmar froze. At first, in his confusion, he thought Brigitte was playing her princess game again, but the scream didn’t come from the forest. The sound came from inside the house, through the open window of the sitting room.

Mama.

The woman screamed again, and he dropped the carrots. Raced toward the door.

Through the window, he saw the sterile black-and-silver Gestapo uniforms, bloodred bands around the sleeves. Herr Darre and another officer towered over his parents. Mama was on the sofa, and Papa . . .

His father was unconscious on the floor.

“Where is the boy?” Herr Darre demanded.

“I don’t know,” Mama whispered.

Herr Darre raised his hand and slapped her.

Rage shot like an arrow through Dietmar’s chest, his heart pounding as he reached for the door handle, but in that moment, in a splinter of clarity, his mother’s eyes found him. And he’d never forget what he saw.

Fear. Pain. And then the briefest glimpse of hope.

“Lauf,” she mouthed.

Run.

He didn’t know if the officers heard her speak. Or if they saw him peering through the window. He simply obeyed his mother’s command.

Trembling like a ship trapped in a gale, Dietmar turned around. Then the wind swept him away, carrying him back toward the tree house, away from his parents’ pain.

Coward, the demons in his mind shouted at him, taunting as he fled.

But his mother had told him to run. He just wouldn’t run far.

First, he’d take Brigitte to the safety of her home. Then he would return like a knight and rescue his father and mother from the enemy.





CHAPTER 2





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London, England, 2017

Dear Miss Vaughn,

I received your e-mail and am deeply offended by your implication that my mother participated in some sort of secret Fascist network during the war. I object to your accusations and question the integrity of the entire World News Syndicate for proposing an article founded on lies.

If you decide to pursue this course of action, I will contact my solicitor in London. Fenton & Potts will put an end to this fallacy.