Saturday, December 1, 2018

I discovered—mostly by feel—what lay buried in its core

The iron door banged shut behind us. After a while, the slam of boots against the floor, there on the other side, became softer. At last, it faded away.
Locked up, we had no will to talk, no patience to listen. In exhaustion, each one of us turned away into himself. The boy curled in one corner, his friend in another. As for me, I paced back and forth, forth and back, trying to locate a spot where the darkness was lighter—finding none. 
Now, in the absence of sounds, the only thing I could hear was my heart, pounding. And the memory of her voice, her soft, musical voice. It started reverberating in my skull—but this time it came not in English, not even in French. “Schnell,” it said, echoing the directive of the SS officer. “Schnell.”
A few steps to reach the wall. A turn. A few steps to reach back to where I started. A turn.
Throughout this footslog, back and forth, forth and back, I must have been in a stupor. It took a while for me to realize that what I was clasping in my hand—that thing that Rochelle had given me—was merely a piece of plain bread, rolled into a ball. Looking at it disappointed me. After all, I had been hoping for something more potent from her: a secret weapon, a key to open the cell door, or else a poison pill to help me control my own destiny, instead of letting the Nazis call the shots. 
Over and over again I rolled the bread ball between with my fingers. It yielded to my touch. So spongy, so squashy, so utterly pliable. And it smelled so, so good. In spite of my hunger, I was determined not to put it in my mouth, not to suck on it or even take a lick. I closed my eyes, the better to imagine her fingers around it, her hand inside mine. 
I savored her touch, the touch that never was. It was enough to calm my nerves. How could I doubt my sweetheart? With my fate all but decided, I should relinquish any and all claims on her heart. After all, she had to take care of herself. Her mission was to think of her future, especially if I would not be there to share it. 
Yes, she had to go on.
Just then, with a sudden grating noise, a slot was pried open at the bottom of the iron door, and a metal tray was slipped through it, directly onto the concrete floor. On it were three shallow bowls with thin, diluted soup that contained some unidentifiable globs of fat, swimming around a shapeless nibble of what used to be a potato. It smelled rotten, but that mattered little to me. I was famished. Starvation reduced me to an animal. 
I fell to my knees and lapped the bland liquid like a dog. Absentmindedly I took a bite of the ball of bread—only to realize that there was something there, carefully concealed.
My hands trembled with excitement as I peeled the softened crust away from it, as I discovered—mostly by feel—what lay buried in its core: a piece of the lightest, thinnest crêpe paper I had ever touched. 
With great care I brushed off the remaining crumbs and unrolled the tissue, doing my utmost not to tear it, by accident. Then I lifted it to my eyes—but in the blackness that surrounded me I could barely identify the marks. 
My heart sank. In my present condition, there was no way I could decipher her message. What choice did I have but to wait, count the hours, the minutes until we would be taken out of this cell, into the light of day.
A few steps to reach the wall. A turn. A few steps to reach back to where I started. A turn.

★ Love romantic suspense? Find your thrill ★
The complete series:

Volume V: 

"Ms. Poznansky has done it again, but this time--and I don't say this lightly--she has written my favorite book to date in her stable of literary gems... The tension was riveting." 
Aaron Paul Lazar, Author

No comments:

Post a Comment