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Ceclie’s eyes were streaked with starlight. She gazed upward in awe, and the stars were glistening in a silver glow. She looked up at their homes in the galaxies, and their descendants seemed interminable.
“Let’s say it together,” Carol said.
“Ok, on three; one, two…three , Hello stars,” they whispered and giggled together. Their bodies shook with laughter. Ceclie and Carol had risked punishment of saying outside after curfew, but maybe it was worth it; they would find out soon enough.
It had been two weeks since Ceclie’s best friend, Carol and she had seen the stars scattered across the night sky. A measly window could never convey the voluminous starry night as Ceclie saw it now. She ran her hands through the soft green grass. She listened to the whispers of the mosquitoes and the chatter of the crickets. It was Autumn and winter’s frost had not yet cast them away.
“Look,” Carol pointed with her finger. “It’s an Orion’s belt,” Ceclie looked up, and saw the three aligned stars.
“And there is a square too, do you see it?” she asked.
“Yes, isn’t there a name for that one?” Carol replied.
“I think so but I can’t remember.” The two paused again and gazed at the stars.
“Carol, how did all of this happen?”
“Well, I said I missed the stars and how I used to take them for granted. Then, we came up with the plan to— ”
“No, I mean look at us. We’re breaking the law right now. We used to come out all the time to look at the stars, and we had permission. I don’t know why this is happening but what Hitler’s doing is corrupt and I have an awful feeling it’s going to get worse.”
“I know. I think things are starting to get out of hand. Did you hear that two German men smashed Mr. Van Dopp’s paint shop window because they knew he’s a Jew?”
“I don’t understand why people are disregarding us Jews. What is the difference between a Christian and a Jew apart from their beliefs?”
Carol poked her, “Ceclie, do you hear that?” Ceclie’s ears sprung into action; they received the patter of footsteps on the dirt road. They had disobeyed the curfew laws, and no one would be roaming the streets at night; that could only mean one thing; German soldiers on patrol, and they were coming. “Carol hide!” Ceclie exclaimed under her huff of breath. She ducked behind a tree and hoped not to be seen. Carol crouched under a bush. Ceclie stayed paralyzed in her position with the tree as her protection. She squeezed her eyes shut.
“Hines, I don’t hear anything. You’re squandering my time! Nobody’s here!”
Another manly voice shouted in reply, “Peter! I know what I heard! Take out your light and start looking.”
The glow from the man’s light traveled toward her fingertips. Beads of sweat formed on Ceclie’s forehead and her hair stuck to her neck as the sweat rolled down her spine. Carol’s eyes squeezed shut, and Ceclie imagined that her mind was racing like hers was.
A high-pitched shriek ripped through the air. Carol and Ceclie shared a horrified look. “Peter! What was that?” His voice sounded as horrified as they were.
“Hines you idiot just get moving!” The man with the light turned on his heel and his foot sprayed dirt into Ceclie’s face. Ceclie stifled a cough. She heard the shuffle of footsteps from the two men as they raced down the dirt road.
Ceclie could hear them yelling at each other in the distance until their words vanished.
They waited about five minutes more, and Carol spoke first, “Ceclie, oh…my…God… that was so close.”
“I don’t need to be reminded; I think I’m going to be sick,” she whispered back.
“Me too, but we can’t just sit here. We need to get out of here. Did you hear the screaming? That’s our warning, and there will be more Germans on the streets now. They’ll be searching for something and we can’t afford to be caught.”
“I know, my house is about two blocks down, we’re going to have to run for it.” A roadway lantern was flickering on its post shedding light into the forlorn shop windows.
“Wait, what about your parents?” Carol said.
“Oh, right I forgot. We’re going to be in a lot of trouble if my parents find out. So let’s climb in through my window.”
“Ok, but no slowing down, and no stops.” Adrenaline surged through Ceclie’s body.
“On three?” she asked. Carol started, “One, two…three.”
Ceclie lunged onto the street. Her legs moved faster than they ever had before. Her world turned into a blur streaked with shadows. Her head pulsed and her heart rate quickened. She struggled to withdraw breath. Ceclie’s eyes moved rapidly, and her childhood home flashed before her; how had the Germans changed her perfect world into a catastrophe?
The Germans had created a place where chaos dwells; where demons feed on fear. Their demons had deprived many people of their hope; leaving melancholy coursing throughout their souls. Ceclie refused to call this shadow land her home. In past years she had played hop scotch on this road; now she ran on it, fearing for her life as terror consumed her.
“Carol there’s my window!” she looked upward to her window; her silk white curtains were swaying in the autumn breeze. They had to climb up the ivy plants to get to her window sill. Fortunately, Carol and Ceclie had lots of experience. They use to sneak out all the time; but times had changed since the Germans captured Holland in May.
She looked back to find Carol panting trying to catch up. “Come on!” Carol threw herself at the fence. The ivy shook when her body connected with it. Ceclie advanced on the stone fence. She dug her hands deep within the ivy. Her hands found a purchase on the stone wall, and she pulled herself up. Finally, her hand grasped the windowsill. Ceclie pulled herself up and sat on it. She reached down and helped Carol up.
“Ha! We did it!” Carol exclaimed.
Ceclie looked at Carol, her face was smudged with dirt and her coal black waves were knotted, and they bounced with excitement. Moistness clung to her forehead and her warm eyes were filled with excitement. The sight of her made Ceclie laugh.
Carol looked across Ceclie’s room, Ceclie followed her gaze, and there in the door way was Ceclie’s sister, Adri. Her hazel eyes stared at them, and she looked pleased with herself, “I’m telling Mama and Papa!”
“No! Wait!” Ceclie cried. Adri’s head flipped back like a struck match. Her eyes flamed; they were challenging her.
“Why should I?” she questioned.
“I’ll tell you why, because when you and Xanadra broke Mama’s china plate I didn’t tell on you,” Ceclie snapped.
“Fine,” Adri huffed. She stood in the doorway and glared contemptuously the two. Then, Adri’s fraternal twin, Xanadra slipped into the bedroom.
“What’s happening? Why did you two go out after eight?” Xanadra asked.
Ceclie answered, “We wanted to see the stars. But it was a mistake because we almost got caught by the German patrol. Please don’t tell Mama or Papa because they’ll get very angry. So, we are going to keep this to ourselves. That means no telling Caspar or Fredric either, ok?”
“Yes Ceclie. But what was it like?” Xanadra replied.
“We’ll tell you, but first close the door,” Carol said.
Xanadra hand clasped the door. A hand stopped it. Caspar! He always knew what Carol and Ceclie were up to.
Caspar slid into her room, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell Mama or Papa, I just want to hear the story too,” he told them.
“And me,” Fredric said from the doorway.
“Does everyone know about this? Are Mama and Papa out there too?” Ceclie demanded.
“No, it’s just us,” Fredric said.
“Fine. Get in here and close the door,” Ceclie responded.
When Ceclie and her siblings were all gathered in a circle Carol began their story, “It all started when Ceclie and I climbed out of her window. We ran two blocks all the way to the park. It’s the best place to see stars you know. It is very dark so the stars gleam brighter.”
Ceclie continued, “Oh yes, they were very big. Then, Carol heard footsteps. That’s when we heard the Germans!”
Xanadra and Adri squealed and held each other. Fredric and Caspar looked at them like heroes.
“They had loud deep scary voices,” she said, “‘Hines!’ one shouted, ‘I don’t hear anything, you fool!’” Ceclie had emphasized the man’s deep, creepy German voice, “The other one replied, ‘Peter I know what I heard! Get out your light and start looking!’ and that’s when I their light slithered on the grass towards my hand,” she paused for effect.
Carol began, “And just when we thought we were about to be caught, we heard screaming! The Germans ran to find the source of the scream, and we were left alone in the park unaware of what to do. We knew we had to escape quickly because more Germans would be coming. We decided to risk everything and run. Do you know how fast Ceclie can run?” Ceclie smirked. Her impossibly long legs carried her far, and very fast. “I never thought I’d make it to your house but we did! Ceclie and I then climbed up the stone wall, and here we are now!” A smile was spread across her face.
Ceclie’s sisters and brothers jaws dropped. They stared at the adventurers with starry eyes and in absolute awe.
“Did they have guns?” Caspar exclaimed.
“The Germans always have pistols.” Fredric answered as he elbowed his brother irritably.
The light beckoned Ceclie to open her eyes. The milky golden sunshine beamed in her eyes. Ceclie glared at her window. She pulled her covers over her head and retreated to her dark cozy haven. Fingers tugged at her hair. Ceclie peeked her head over the covers. Carol was playing with lock of her blonde hair. Carol’s own ink black locks snaked around Ceclie’s rose colored pillows, and Mr. Buttons, the stuffed bear lied next to her. His black button eyes shined with the yellow morninhhg sun.
“What time is it?” Ceclie asked.
“Your clock says eight, I’m starving can we have breakfast?”
“Yes, but I think Mrs. Smit usually makes breakfast at 8:30 on Saturdays.” Mrs. Smit was Ceclie’s family’s disgruntled old cook.
“I can wait until then,” Carol said with a smile.
“I think this has been our best sleepover yet,” Ceclie said, and it had been. Ceclie had never had another best friend. She was fourteen and 5’9 and still growing. Ceclie had always intimidated her other classmates because of her height. But Carol looked past differences that set Ceclie apart from the others, and maybe it was because Carol was different herself.
“I think so too,” Carol said, “ Looking back, I can’t believe we did that! But, I have to admit, I regret nothing!”Ceclie laughed.
“Breakfast!”, Mrs. Smit’s raspy ancient voice yelled from the bottom of the staircase. Instantly, Ceclie heard the rumbling of footsteps race down the stairs. She jumped out of bed to join the stampede.
After breakfast, Carol’s father arrived at the door.
“I never wanted this sleepover to end,” Carol said. Ceclie hugged her.
“Thank you for having Carol over Ceclie. I know she always has an enjoyable time with you,” Carol’s papa said.
Ceclie smiled and waved them goodbye. “See you at school!” she called to Carol. Ceclie watched from her window, she saw Carol and her papa walk down their stone pathway. A drop of Ceclie’s heart always left with Carol. This always made Ceclie feel a little emptier when she left.
“Ceclie!” Ceclie recognized Mrs. Smit’s voice. She sprinted into the hallway. Mrs. Smit was hunched over with a broom. Her gray eyes were sunken and her jaw was slack.
“Yes?” Ceclie asked.
“Your Mother is in the sitting room requesting you.”
Ceclie turned the brass knob. Her Mama was sitting on the caramel sofa facing her. Her hands gestured Ceclie to sit. Ceclie began to panic. Adri said she wouldn’t tell on her!
Trying to act calm and poised, she sat down on the red sofa. Ceclie felt the velvet against her calves. Ceclie observed Mama, the caramel sofa made her skin look even paler. A strand of her dark brown hair escaped her tightly woven bun and lingered over her hazel brown eyes. She pushed it away and tucked it behind her ears. Ceclie gazed into her mama’s eyes and struggled to read them.
“Ceclie, I have something to tell you. As you have noticed, things have begun to change in Holland.” Ceclie nodded her head nervously.
“The Jewish are being persecuted, and the Germans are observing us more than ever. Hoogeveen is no longer safe for us. Our family will not be safe here anymore, but Ceclie, we can guarantee a safety for you.”
“Mama” she said, “What saftey?”
“I had an idea that this might happen so I have been writing letters to my friend, Mrs. DeVink, who lives in Amsterdam, her family is Catholic. Ceclie, they have agreed to take you in.”
“Mama I won’t go! I won’t leave you and Papa!” Ceclie panicked.
“Ceclie this is no longer a game! You are going and that’s final!” Mama yelled. Ceclie sank back into the sofa.
“Is Fredric going?” Fredric was 15, making him the eldest in Ceclie’s family. He always was the more sufficient and smarter than her, and he never failed to impress Mama and Papa. She couldn’t go without him.
Ceclie looked up to her mama, her expression was desolate, and Ceclie spotted tears in her eyes.
“No,” Mama’s voice cracked and she cupped her face in her hands.
“Mama this isn’t fair! I will not go!”
“Ceclie, you don’t understand! You are being given the opportunity that they will not have!”
“What?” she was so confused. How could leaving, and moving in with strangers be a gift?
“Ceclie, Holland is not safe anymore for any Jews. You are being given the opportunity to live without persecution from the Germans.”
“Why am I going?” she asked.
Mama’s voice was shaky, “Your blond hair and your pale skin, the Germans will never suspect that you are Jewish. The DeVinks could only take in one of you, and your father and I felt that your fare completion and blonde hair would draw the least attention.”
Ceclie had inherited blonde hair from her grandmother. “Sunshine Hair” her papa had called it when Ceclie was young. She shared the same bronze eyes that her papa had. However, her long legs and tall, lean figure came from her mother’s family.
“Will the twins and Caspar and Fredric know?” she asked.
“No, Ceclie it must be kept that way.” Ceclie’s tears broke from their holds. They streamed freely down her cheeks. She tried to remain calm but her mother’s image made her cry harder.
“Ceclie you will leave tomorrow morning. Mrs. DeVink advised me that you should take her niece’s name.” Ceclie’s hands were wet with brackish tears.
“When you leave tomorrow your name will be Sabine. You will be with them because your mother died and your father is having financial problems. Tomorrow you will walk until you reach the end of the street. Mr. DeVink will be in a green car waiting for you. He will take you to live with them. Ceclie you must understand that the DeVinks are putting themselves in danger for your well being. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Hot tears were making their way onto the fabric of her blue dress. She couldn’t imagine life without her family. A million questions coursed through her head.
“Mama, I’m scared,” Ceclie whispered.
Mama sat with her then, and hugged and consoled her. “I know,” she said, “I know.”
Ceclie had an hour until she had to leave her family and home. The Germans had snatched her identity, family, and her best friend. Ceclie would soon become Sabine DeVink.
“Sabine DeVink,” she said. Her words tasted like vinegar. Ceclie clutched Mr. Buttons and stoked his soft fur. Her fingers found moistness. She recalled the previous night when she had cried waiting for this day to come.
“Breakfast!” Mrs. Smit howled from the stairwell. Ceclie trudged down the stairs. She was joined at the table by her sisters and brothers as they eyed her curiously. She ate her breakfast in silence. Mrs. Smit made oatmeal, and Caspar had stolen the forbidden brown sugar for her. Only, the oatmeal was tasteless.
“Ceclie, get your shoes. Your Mother is waiting for you. You’re going into town today.”
Ceclie nodded. She looked at her brothers and sisters. She so desperately wanted to hug them.
In the doorway her mother looked composed and strong she held her head high and concealed her emotions. She wore a crimson coat and in her hands she held Ceclie’s suitcase. Beside her was Ceclie’s father with his eyebrows furrowed in deep concentration. His lip quivered and his eyes were shiny with tears.
He grasped Ceclie’s hand.
He said to her, “Ceclie, never forget the life you have here. I have something for you.” He pulled a black box out of his pocket. A pink bow was carefully placed on the cap.
He placed it into her hands. Ceclie’s hands were shaky as she pulled on it. Inside the box was a gold locket with words engraved “It is not the stars that hold out destiny but in ourselves – William Shakespeare.”
“Ceclie, I know you love the stars.”
Ceclie hugged him and buried her head into his warm sweater like she did when she was a child. She breathed him in and smelled the light fragrance of lemon. And her gesture meant “thank you”, “I love you dad”, and, “I don’t want to leave you,” and that was all the conversation they required.
“I have something to,” her mother said.
She held out a picture of Ceclie family together, it was her favorite picture of them. In the picture, Ceclie was smiling and towering over the twins and Caspar. Adri was pinching Xandra and Fredric was standing next to Papa looking poised.
“Remember to keep it safe and out of sight.” She told her. Mama places Ceclie’s bag in her hands “It is time, are you ready?” she said.
“I will never be ready for this,” she whimpered. Papa opened the door to the pitter patter of rain slapping the ground. Ceclie stepped into the streets of Hoogeveen. The clouds were gray and heavy in the sky, and the thick fog crept into the streets. She looked back into the doorway, and the door was closed. She held back tears, but they keep coming, pouring onto her sleeve. Ceclie spotted the green car on the end of the street.
The Germans have succeeded; she realized. They have taken her religion and her family. With their scorching hot fire they have turned her reality into ash. But, they have not won her life; she creates her own destiny. Her phoenix will rise, and they will never touch her stars for they were ablaze in the skies.