I'll never forget you (part one)

France 1943

It was a pretty summer night. The trees cast shadows in the dying light. It was the kind of night I remember sitting out on the front porch with my parents when I was little. We don’t sit outside much anymore because of the Nazis. It makes me sick just looking at them strutting about like they own our country. It’s not their’s and it never will be. We do all we can to let them know that. We, meaning the resistance, of course. I joined shortly after France fell and despite the danger of my work, I’m proud of what I do. It’s that pride that keeps me going sometimes.

“Ella, Ella!”

The sound of Philippe’s voice broke the peaceful silence I had been sitting in. Philippe was around ten and the youngest member of the resistance cell in our town.

“What, Philippe?” I called from my perch on the mossy rock. What had possessed him to come find me? No one usually disturbed me when I went to the woods to think. Something terrible must have happened. Suddenly my heart began to pound.

“They’re coming for you. Someone must’ve found out and told.”

“What should I do?” I tried for the sake of Philippe’s tender age not to sound afraid. He had been like a little brother to me and I didn’t want him to be worried despite the fact he knew as well as I did what would happen if I was caught.

“Stay in the woods. Go deeper if you have to. I have dark clothes for you so they won’t be able to see you.”

“Is it, is it the---?” I knew the answer to the question I had just asked but for some completely idiotic reason I hoped it wasn’t true.”

“The Gestapo are after you, Ella,” Philippe looked like he was about to cry and I felt a horrible pain in my heart, “Take this and go. Please!” He shoved a bundle at me and sprinted at top speed away from the woods.

I wasted no time and changed. Then I tied up the bundle, which contained some food and began to run. Despite the fact it was getting dark, I wasn’t. I knew these woods like the back of my hand. The Gestapo, if they were on my trail, didn’t. There was a village just a few miles from here. There were a few families there whom I knew and trusted that would give me food. Maybe they would even hide me? My thoughts turned to my parents. They must be horribly worried. The resistance would probably help them go into hiding. I hoped they were safe. If they died it would be my fault. All my---


My heart began to pound even harder as I stood up to face whoever I had just slammed into. If it was the Nazis it would be all over.

“Are you alright?”

The Gestapo wouldn’t be asking if I was alright. My heart soared. Still, I had to be on guard. Someone who had been close to me had launched into this mess. Who knew what a stranger could do?

“Yeah, I guess, I’m fine.” I stood, up, brushing leaves off my clothes. The person I had crashed into was a young man a few years older than me. He was also wearing black and had sandy blond hair and green eyes. For some unknown reason, I blushed.

“I doubt you’re fine,” he said, looking me over again, “If you were fine you wouldn’t be running top speed through the woods.”

“Why are you?” I replied.

“Come with me,” he grabbed my hand.

He led me in the direction I had been going in for a little while and then abruptly stopped and listened quietly for a few seconds. From where we were standing I heard distant shouts.

“This way,” he grabbed my hand again.

We walked through the woods for another fifteen minutes until we reached a clearing dotted with small pinpricks of light. My companion pulled out his own flashlight and turned it on. As the pinpricks of light came closer, I could make out around four or five people dressed in dark clothes.

“Andre,” I heard one whisper, “who’s that with you?”

“Her name is---”

“Ella,” I finished for who I now knew was Andre, “I’m from Grasse and someone who used to be very close to me informed on me. I need somewhere to hide.”

“Can we trust her?” One of the men asked.

“Yes,” Andre said quietly.

“Grasse, eh?” The man suddenly smiled at me, “I know the group over there. Worked with them a few times. You’re welcome to stay at my house. I’m Andre’s brother, Daniel. Nice to meet you.” He shook my hand. “By the way,” he turned to a woman a little older than him, “is it all clear?”

“No Gestapo sighted, if that’s what you mean,” she answered, “they’re not on her and most importantly, on Andre You can head home now.”

I knew better than to ask Andre what he had been doing in the woods as he, Daniel, and I walked through the tall grass to their house. Yet again there wasn’t much talking but I didn’t mind. At least I was safe for now.

Chapter Two:

My room in Andre and Daniel’s house was more like a closet with a bed and dresser. Andre had explained it was a servant’s room long ago and that was why it was so tiny. “Also,” he had added, smiling, “that’s why it’s hidden in the back of a closet like this. If anyone,” he didn’t have to specify, “comes, we’ll put a bookshelf over the door and it’ll look like the closet just ends there. We’ve hidden people before so we know the drill.”

I was very grateful to Andre and Daniel’s family for risking their lives for me. They were extremely kind people who often would ask me about my life in Grasse before I went into hiding. “We want you to remember who you are,” Daniel had told me the morning after I came to their house.

“Did you have a lot of friends.”

“When I was younger,” I answered Andre, “not so much anymore. Things got very different when the Nazis came. I was allowed out less and things changed. Things got even more difficult once I joined the resistance. I had to be constantly on guard and it was hard to maintain close friendships while keeping so many secrets.”

“I know how you feel,” Andre smiled and looked straight at me. I turned completely red and hoped he didn’t notice or care. “I was quite the social kid and then other things became more important. Maybe if the Nazis hadn’t come we’d just be normal teenagers with friends and parties to go to.”

“I wish that was true,” I said and for the first time this entire ordeal, I began to cry.

“Shh, Ella, it’s alright,” Andre’s voice was soft, “we’ll both get out fine. The Allies are winning and the Nazis know it. Pretty soon we’ll be free. Can you believe that?”

“I hope so,” I managed to choke out, “I really do.”

“Andre!” It was his and Daniel’s mother, Florence, calling.

“Yes, mother?”

“I just found out we’re having guests tomorrow. I’d like you to get the bookshelf ready to move,” She said as she entered my room, “and Ella. I need to speak with you. Andre, you can stay here or go if you want to.

Andre remained on my bed which I took as a sign he was staying.

“So, Ella,” Florence continued, “we’re having friends coming to visit tomorrow. They are close friends of ours but we can’t trust anybody. You will have to stay in here and be extremely quiet. We’ll let you out once they’re gone. You won’t be able to leave anyways because we’ll have the bookshelf over the door. I hope you understand.”

“I understand,” I told her. Yet there was something in her voice that had bothered me. There was something forced about her smile. Then I looked into Florence’s eyes and saw something I completely recognized. Fear.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Ella, dear,” Florence must have seen the worry on my face, “I’m sorry for lying. Being in the resistance must have made you a pretty good lie detector,” she laughed nervously, “I should’ve told you the truth but I didn’t want to upset you.” Pausing, she cleared her throat, “You see, since we live on a farm, we must turn over much of our produce to the Nazis. We don’t like doing it but we have to. Tomorrow they will be here to inspect our house and farm. Andre will move the bookshelf and it will be like there is no room here at all You will be absolutely fine. Don’t worry at all.”

I felt sick, faint. I knew I should trust Florence and what she said but what if it wasn’t about their farm. What if it was about me? Their whole family, right down to their youngest, Annette, would be punished for hiding me here. I couldn’t let that happen to such wonderful people.

“That bookshelf has saved four other people’s lives before,” Andre looked over at me. “It knows what it’s doing.”

Chapter Three:

Little Annette came in with some food before the bookshelf would be up for the day. As soon as the sound of her tiny feet faded away, the sound of a heavy bookshelf being moved took its place. Relaxing onto my bed, I felt calmer than I had in awhile. From how it sounded being shoved into position, that bookshelf seemed huge. Hopefully its hugeness would hide the door behind it. Don’t worry I told myself It’ll be alright. Once they leave Florence or even Daniel or Andre will come and let me out. We’ll have a laugh over something stupid and it’ll all go back to normal. Normal. That was a funny word. My life hadn’t actually been normal for a long time. I’d been an awkward kid of thirteen when the Nazis occupied France. The number one most important thing back then was being noticed by an attractive boy. My appearance wasn’t something I’d thought much about for the past week or so. There were much more important things to worry about. I almost giggled at the thought of what my reflection probably looked like but then I remembered I had to stay completely quiet. That set me off on another path of worry which yet again I had to quash. Stop it, Ella, just stop! I angrily reprimanded myself, Andre wouldn’t want you to worry. Andre. I loved that entire family but he had grown on me the most. It was mostly because he was the one who had found me in the woods. I basically owed my life to him at this point. I’d owe him it twice once this was all over since he had moved the bookshelf...

I didn’t remember falling asleep but I was woken up by the sound of the bookshelf being moved. Slowly, I sat up and stretched. The next thing I realized was I was hungry! Hopefully whoever came to see me would bring me food --- I’d eaten all my food from Annette earlier. Maybe, to celebrate I’d be able to come out and eat dinner with the family.

“Ella, it’s all clear. Open up.”

“Thanks, Daniel!” I called to the voice outside my door.

We had a nice dinner that night with all of us talking and laughing at the table. It was almost like there was no war, no Nazis. The only reminder of the world outside the warm and cozy dining room was the fact I was here. If there was no war I would be in my own dining room at home eating with my own family. I had gotten word from my parents through Daniel. They were fine except for the fact that I wasn’t there. The Gestapo hadn’t come to question them. I’d almost cried when I found out I was so thankful.

“Excuse me, Ella. Ella?” Andre’s voice cut into my thoughts.

“What? Oh sorry Andre.” I couldn’t believe I had been so out of it.

“You have to head back to your room now. We have to go now. I’ll explain once we’re there.”

Once we got to my room, Andre closed the door behind us tightly.

“What’s going on?” I asked, as fear began creeping into the pit of my stomach, “they didn’t...the bookshelf.”

“They did.” Andre didn’t look so good either, “they questioned Papa about it which means they definitely were suspicious. He didn’t want us to know until after dinner so we could have that nice meal.” He swallowed before continuing, “Papa said they may send people to investigate.”

I was speechless. Positively speechless. “But haven’t you hidden people before?” Was all I could say.

“The Nazis haven’t thought twice about our bookshelf before this.” Andre answered gravely, “it’s my fault. All my fault! I didn’t shove it hard enough in front of your door. Usually Daniel does that part but he let me do it this time. Stupid! I was stupid to agree. I should’ve let him do it. He’s bigger and stronger than me. If you die it’s all my fault, all mine!”

“Andre,” I put my arm around his shoulder, trying not to sound absolutely terrified myself “you’ll be fine. Everything will. Daniel will move the bookshelf this time and we’ll all get out okay.”

“Oh Ella,” Andre looked at me almost pleadingly, “but what if they move it. What if they do? I can’t let them find you. No I can’t ---”

“Andre!” I suddenly cried, “shh!”

Another loud knock, like the one I had heard when Andre was talking, punctuated the silence. Muffled voices and the sound of the front door being slammed followed.

“They’re here!”

“Andre, please!”

“The bookshelf!”

“Shut up!”

The muffled voices were coming closer. I could make out Andre’s father, Peter, loudest of all.

“I assure you, sirs, the bookshelf is not hiding anything. I can show you it if you want.”

I felt more hopeful when I heard how confident Peter sounded. He’d done this before and the other people had gotten safely away. I’d be alright. Andre grabbed me and pulled me toward the corner of the bed. The voices came closer.

“What’s in this room?”

“It’s a closet, honestly, you can look.”

“What about this one?”

“Storage.” Peter sounded nervous. My heart was beating so hard I thought it would give us away. I could hear Andre’s heart beating just as hard and fast next to me.

“Ella, Ella,” he murmured into my ear, “Please don’t let them take you, please! You can’t. All my fault...Ella!”

“Oh Andre, I’ll try, I’ll try!” I held him tighter out of sheer nerves as the voices and footsteps came even closer. The Gestapo sounded a lot angrier now. I hoped they wouldn’t hurt Peter. I’d give myself up before I let them hurt anyone in that family.

“This room! All the way at the end of the closet! What is it?”

“My youngest daughter sleeps here,” Peter sounded even worse. I began to feel dizzy and sick with fear. “She’s asleep right now. Please don’t wake her.”

A hand grasped the doorknob and began to turn it. I pivoted over so I could face Andre. “It’s not your fault,” I said, “I couldn’t hide forever.” And then the door opened.

The Gestapo had to pry me off of him. Blurry images of the family who had kept me alive for one more week rushed by as I was dragged away. The last thing I saw before the Gestapo slammed me into their car was Andre. The last thing I heard was him screaming, “Ella! I’ll never forget you!”

Join the Discussion

This article has 31 comments. Post your own now!

wild-free said...
Aug. 7, 2010 at 10:53 am

I really enjoyed this! I love how you chose historical fiction.. Ilove history, especially world war II and the holocaust. Overall, this was nicely written.. there were quite a few grammar/spelling mistakes, but nothing that can't be fixed easily

My only real critique is that I felt the whole story was way too rushed. It went from Ella's background to Phillipe, to Andre, to Andre's family, to the Nazis, to being safe then to being in danger within a matter of minutes. Don't... (more »)

SecretNonConformist replied...
Aug. 7, 2010 at 3:29 pm
Thanks for reading! It's nice to see someone else who likes history. I will definitely take your critiques into account. You know what? You should try writing some historical fiction if you also like history. You're a good writer so you can do it!
thepreechyteenager said...
Aug. 3, 2010 at 10:51 am

The ending of this was so sweet.  I love your characters and your descriptions, plus your story line.

One thing I have to ask you though is, who is your intended audience?  By the level of vocabulary and fluencey of sentences, my first guess was preteens.  But then as I got deeper into the story, I want so sure.  That audience wouls have no idea what the Gestapo is or where Grasse is.  I think they would be very confused, but if a reader very much out of that a... (more »)

SecretNonConformist replied...
Aug. 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm

thanks for the feedback! the intended audience was actually high school freshmen who have studied WW2. I can see why you thought preteens, though.

Why she decided to travel with this boy was because he was so obviously in the resistance. When I was reading about the time period, I read how resistance fighters would position themselves in strategic woods just in case there was a downed Allied piolet that needed them. Ella, being in the resistance, most likely knew that there would be re... (more »)

deka9 said...
Jul. 31, 2010 at 1:49 pm

I am surprise (not by a lot since this is historical fiction) that there are only two other readers who commented on this. This is great!

After my first read, it brought me back to The Diary of Anne Frank and the life of Carrie Ten Boom. If you haven't read it, then do it now. Hahaha, it is worth it.

Personally, I feel like there should be quotation marks or capitalizations on "Resistants" since you were referring to a specific group of people.

I could under... (more »)

SecretNonConformist replied...
Jul. 31, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Thanks for the feedback! The funny thing, is that I used to take German and never thought to use it. About Andre's eye color: In the beginning, I thought there would be romantic tension between Andre and Ella so I described Andre's physical features. Then I realized it would take away from the story so I scratched the idea. That was one of the remnants that still remained. 

If you want to, you can check out Part 2 of this story. I won't say what happens so you'll be surprised. And... (more »)

deka9 replied...
Jul. 31, 2010 at 11:07 pm
Hahaha, no problem. I would definitely check out Part 2. You are very talented :)
SecretNonConformist replied...
Aug. 1, 2010 at 8:37 am
thank you!
A_Dreamer said...
Jul. 26, 2010 at 2:10 pm
One thing I'll admit to you: I usually can't stand stories unless they are from our decade. But, I could stand this one. Actually, I enjoyed it a ton. :) It was very addicting and so sweet!
SecretNonConformist replied...
Jul. 26, 2010 at 6:37 pm
Thanks so much! I'm glad this one spoke to you. I actually wrote it because so many of us teenagers can't stand history and because of that, don't realize what a role we played in it. Thanks again :)
PorcelainShadow said...
Jul. 10, 2010 at 7:13 pm
All i can say is.... wow. really. you did a really nice job building the suspense! im left looking for more, and very very hooked. at first, i wondered what this was all about, but... my goodness it turned out well(:
SecretNonConformist replied...
Jul. 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm
thanks so much for commenting! I'm glad you took the time to read it :)
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