“Oh mon Dieu!” cried the nurse, as she came out to the top of the stairs under the massive portico. Gaping at me in astonishment, she clapped a hand over her head till the white cotton cap nearly flew off. Up to this moment she had been chatting, in quick, hushed tones, with a slender girl whose hair was covered. It was tucked into a red beret, which was tilted, a bit whimsically, over her forehead.
Meanwhile I slogged laboriously toward the base of the stairs. Once there I stopped for a breath, then pricked up my ears—but unfortunately, I could barely catch a word. And even if I could, what I managed to remember of my high school French was such that I could barely make sense of it.
At any other time I would have taken note of the elegant architecture of the Château de Bénouville. After all, it was built in the style of Greek temples, with an intention to express grandeur. And of course I would have taken note of that girl.
From afar all I noticed, besides a sketchy impression of her figure, was that she hugged the nurse and handed her something, some large bundle wrapped in burlap and tied, in a disorderly manner, several times over with a thick rope. Then she streaked across my path, mounted her bike, and took off, waving.
A moment later, her farewell cry had faded into the distance. “Au Revoir...”
Why I failed to catch sight of her face is a mystery to me now. Perhaps it was because of a ray of morning sun, which slanted at that moment into my eyes, or else—because of exhaustion.
I hated having to wince, which made everything around me seem a bit warped. Determined not to limp, I could now advance almost without aching. But the burden I carried kept pressing me down, and the first steps up the stairs were the most difficult. Cold drops of sweat formed on my forehead. Some of them started running down my face and into my eyes, stinging them.
I dragged myself up, somehow, with Ed laden on my back, his arms slung limply over my shoulders, his blood oozing around my neck.
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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
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