In a flash, Natasha steps away from me and slides the glass door, which screeches as she draws it to a close behind her. Over the startled reflection of my face I see her piano, standing inside like an icy beast, waiting to be awakened.
She heads towards it, stepping over sheets of musical notes, which are strewn all about. All the while, the wine glass dangles carelessly from her fingers, dripping across the rug, staining it red.
She runs her fingers across the ivories, trying to improvise. The first sounds are soft, uncertain. Then, wave after wave, here come the reverberations, pounding strong, straight at my heart. They make me imagine our past. In the manner of an old fairytale, they conjure the beginning of our love, the way it should have happened.
A magical wedding, there in the city of lights. No secrets between us leading up to that moment, and nothing held back from each other, from then on.
Happiness. Openness. Trust.
But both of us know, that’s fiction. It is not how our life actually happened. Because of my covert mission during the first months of 1944, I had to keep my actions under wraps, only to be rewarded with an equal measure of concealment.
During that last meeting we had in London, two months before D-Day, Natasha told me she was on her way to board a ship, which was about to sail across the Atlantic, back home. Only later did I learn the truth, and to this day I am still piecing more of it together.
Her journey, I now figure, was no less dangerous than mine. It took her not to New York, as I was led to believe, but in the opposite direction: she landed on French soil at least a month before I did—perhaps even earlier—and stayed there, behind enemy lines, putting her life at risk.
What made her do such a crazy thing? And why didn’t she tell me, during that meeting, that she was about to join the French Resistance? Why didn’t she confide in me?
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"The story of how they survived such horrors is extraordinary. Also extraordinary is the author's deep and gorgeous writing, interweaving desperation with descriptions of 'beautiful light streaming from high-arched, stained glass windows, rattling in the duel between the German artillery and ours.'"
- J.A. Schneider, author of suspense and psychological thrillers