The Calm Within the Storm

February 6, 2010
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I drew back the curtain and peered outside. It was raining. Fat, dark raindrops drove themselves against my window, as if determined to shatter the glass and drench me in soggy desolation. No need for that; I was already drenched.

Holland held a lot of desolation in 1942. The swastikas adorning our flags brought it. The ration cards that determined whether we had enough food to eat brought it. The German soldiers invading our streets were sustained by it, the thud of their boots a requiem chant. Our city of Amsterdam had cloaked itself in fear.

“Margot, I’m bored.” The voice silenced my thoughts.

“I think we all are, Anne.”

My younger sister fidgeted. “If we were allowed the swimming pools we wouldn’t be bored!”

“Swimming pools?” I scoffed. “In this weather? Don’t be ridiculous. Besides, Daddy says-”

“-we are lucky to be alive,” Anne finished the worn-out sentence. “Yes I know, only living would be more fun if there were swimming pools.”

I let the curtain drop. “Living is the main concern.”

I shifted my attention to Daisy’s Mountain Holiday and tried to forget about our conversation. Anne wasn’t scared. Even her grumbles about our stolen privileges were more of an excuse to talk than a complaint. If she could still be happy in the midst of the horror, why couldn’t I?

“Margot, the door!” Anne uttered. “Didn’t you hear it?”

The bell rang again as I hurried to answer it. I frowned, perplexed; we weren’t accustomed to having such eager visitors.

I opened the door and stared. Where was the apology I’d prepared to offer? My closed lips would not let it out. Instead I just gripped the door handle and didn’t move. As if stillness would make him go away.
The Nazi held out a small slip of paper. Then he was gone.

“God help us,” I whispered. “It’s finally happened.”

But who?

With trembling fingers I opened my closed fist and looked.

When I re-entered the room Anne was waiting for me.

“What-” But the words faded from her lips. “Margot, what happened? You look as if Hitler himself just-”

I swallowed back tears and squeezed my hands to stop the shaking. If I could just…be brave…

“The S.S. sent a call-up notice. Don’t cry Anne, it’s not for you. But you’d best not ask me who, or I might cry, which would be very silly.”

“It’s you,” Anne whispered. Then she burst into tears.

My legs finally gave out and I dropped onto the bed. We were sinking into a mire, looking up at an enemy too big for us. And as it grew bigger, we sank lower. Hadn’t I known our turn would come? Or maybe just my turn. Maybe it was a fool’s hope that we could escape death. But to die alone?

Daddy always worked late, being the Managing Director of his company, Travies N. V., and it was close to evening when he and Mummy got home. Anne and I stood by quietly as they read the notice.
When Mummy saw my face she cried, “Oh Margot dearest, they won’t take you away! Otto, tell her!”
Daddy tried to smile. “You’re mother is right; you mustn’t be afraid.” The grim smile faded. “But we will have to leave here.”
“Otto, are you sure it’s ready?”
“It has to be ready,” Daddy said firmly. “Or we will all die.”
So now it is night and we are walking in the shadows. Daddy’s friend Kraler has a place for us. We will live in hiding, but we will live.
Rain is still pouring. It has seeped into my wooden clogs and beside me Anne is shivering. But she no longer trembles from fear, and neither do I. The storm may go on forever; the rain may wash away everything. All may be taken by darkness. But these are ours:
Life for now. Courage forever.

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