Author's note: Please take a look! i wrote this for all audiences and i plan to add action sequences but it is... Show full author's note »
Chapter 2: Before the Puzzle October 1st 1942I was sitting at our small, wooden, kitchen table with one leg that was shorter than all the rest. We had placed rather thick book underneath the short leg to try and even out the table, but when I was sitting alone at our table, I kicked the book out from under the short leg and rocked the table back and forth.
The swaying reminded me of the summer I went sailing with my family and my cousins down in Hannover. My cousins owned a sailboat down by one of the small bays. The sailboat was emerald and a deep-sea blue color, and went by the name of S.S. Semchuk. Semchuk was our last name. So that made me—
“Jade Semchuck!” screeched my mother, “What on earth is this,” she held up my book light from Nadine. Uh-oh, “doing under your bed?”
“Ummm…I have to go meet Anastasia at the market! Goodbye mo— Gabrielle! Love you!”
“Wait just a-”
But I was already out the door, stuffing the rest of my sarges goetta into my mouth, throwing on my hand made jacket, and kicking the thick book back under the short leg of the table.
I sprinted through the thick, dew covered grass that made up our lawn. Running in time to the sound of my feet thumping on the small stones zigzagging their way to freedom at the end of the yard. I pulled the other arm of my jacket on and hopped our rickety 3 foot fence for a quick escape. I was sprinting down our cobblestone street, already half way to the market. I didn’t want to lie. I was wicked fast and as pedestrians whipped by in colorful blurs, I just smiled and ran even faster. It was exhilarating, feeling the rush of the wind against my skin and my hair trailing behind me.
My brother Jackson who is fifteen always joked about how I wore my shoes out so quickly and I always told him that it was probably all of the running I did at school and from my mom.
Don’t get me wrong, “mom” was great, but I still missed my real one. Gabrielle is my adoptive mother and insists that I call her mom, but I always call her Gabrielle when she is not around. She is very nice and only cares about what is best for me, but she can never replace Anastasia, my real mother. She was forced to flee Germany because of her heritage. Her parents were Jewish and that made her Jewish by birth, even though she was a devout Christian. I hope to see her again someday, but I guess I’ll never what happened to her for sure…
She left right after Ian’s 4th birthday, and has not been heard from since. Our slum of a town had not yet been invaded with Nazis. It seemed that our little town had escaped the new rule, with only a few scratches and banners that hung from the taller buildings.
Eleanor and I are blood sisters and even twins for that matter, but we both have one peculiar and yet similar quality. We both have two different colored eyes. I have one strikingly bright jade colored eye, for which I was named after, and one bright purple one, both with millions of tiny gold flecks in them. Whereas Eleanor had her right eye jade and her left one purple.
We used to stare into each other’s eyes for hours at a time, but we had now grown accustomed to our eyes. Nobody else had them. We were two of a kind and proud of it. Most of the other kids I know made fun of us for it. That’s why I try to distance myself from others, but with my eyes it really isn’t much of a challenge.
Ian had always called us his twin jewels because of our eyes, and we never cared because he was the best brother anyone could ever wish for. He had remade all my shoes with stronger leather and reinforced soles so that they didn’t wear out as fast. Although he was eighteen, he still acted like a seven year old, but always had time for us even if he was in the middle of something. That was what made him so special.
It wasn’t until that fateful day when everything changed. We were torn apart at the seams, our family ties severed and slashed to bits. I had never realized how much Ian was holding the family together. He glued us all together and kept us a family despite the hard times we were facing. Everything fell apart like a jigsaw puzzle when he left us. It was as if some angry kid decided to take apart a jigsaw puzzle with a shot gun, only slightly less painful for us than it was for the puzzle. I never valued Ian as much as I did right now, on the verge of death, missing an eye, and harboring several broken ribs pressing up against my heart. I only wished it hadn’t taken until now for me to realize this.
As I rounded the next block, feet thundering against the cold, hard street, heart pounding against my ribcage, barely even breaking a sweat, I saw something I had hoped never to see. There they were. The military troops from the German army headquarters nearby.
Maybe, in the eyes of our government, I should consider myself lucky to live so close to the base, but when you have a family, a family that has someone in it who is old enough to be drafted, living so close is like a curse. You step one foot out of line, and they’ll find some way to make your life miserable and take someone you love away with them.
I saw my friend Nadine, in tears, on her small, rickety porch on my way to the market. Her mother stood to her right, handkerchief in hand; blowing away, while Nadine’s father stared wistfully his nineteen year old son resisted the officers. I could also tell that Simon, Nadine’s older brother, was not keen on the idea of going with the officers peacefully, but I could tell that it wasn’t really his choice. He was outnumbered, four to one, with the majority of the officers resembling that of stone statues bolted to the ground.
I felt bad for Nadine and couldn’t even begin to comprehend how she was feeling. I wasn’t sure what I would do if my family lost Ian. My father had already served in the military as a doctor, and was greatly respected throughout all of Germany. He even showed us his uniform and all the badges and pins he had acquired throughout his term. I had been secretly hoping that because of the outstanding job my father had done, the military would not come knocking on our door to recruit Ian. I knew that it was a stupid, naïve hope, but it was all I had.
I stared up at the scene that was taking place about twenty or thirty feet away. I felt sort of guilty watching them have such a private moment. I averted my eyes to a shiny pebble, wet with dew, that had strayed a ways from the rest of the cobblestones and was a loose, sticking up from the street. As I stood there, staring down the pebble that had so recently become the most interesting thing on the planet, I heard Nadine’s mother scream and quickly snapped my gaze back to the scene on the rickety wooden porch. I shivered. Not so much from cold, but from what I had just witnessed. I stuck my hands deeper into my brown and army green woolen pockets and prayed that I didn’t split a seam again. I had on my brown leather gloves that Jackson had made me last winter.
My hands had been cherry red and raw from the cold. Jackson told me that he didn’t want me to get frost bite because then I would never be able to help him chop firewood again, so on one of the coldest days, Jackson threw the gloves across the room, smacking me in the forehead with their soft, cracked fabric, temporarily blinding me.
“Here,” he had said to me, “there was some leftover fabric from the boots I made for father.” Then he had just walked away, his thick boots clomping up the stairs and onto our first floor.
Now I’m no scientist, but I was well aware that our family was flat broke and leather was very high on the list of things not to buy/steal. Although father was a respected military man, the military didn’t pay amazingly well, and as soon as his term was over, the envelopes of money stopped arriving. We were in deep trouble.
I knew that however Jackson had come into possession of such good leather had cost him. Big time. I remember smiling to myself while admiring his handiwork. He was a genius at leatherworking (and thievery), and we were all incredibly thankful for that because if he wasn’t, we would all probably be dead by now, having frozen to death.
So far, his gloves had held up incredibly well, and were great for pick-pocketing since my hands no longer shook when I tried to swipe something off one of the unlucky stands on the street. Jackson taught me everything I know about thievery and I had now become an expert. I had quick, slender fingers and small sneaky hands, which were great for snatching.
I shivered again, this time from the cold and the site up on the Gheller residence’s porch. I drew in a quick breath, the icy cold air piercing my lungs and sending a whole new wave of shivers down my spine. I gasped for more air and rubbed my hands up and down against my arms, and then quickly thrust them pack into the warm depths of my padded pockets. I let the icy air out of my lungs, replacing it with even icier, crisper air. I watched my breath, visible in the icy air, rise and disappear, and then returned my gaze to the terrifying site at Nadine’s.
Simon was resisting the officers. They had their hands on his arms, pulling him towards their automobile, but Simon did not have a road trip on his agenda. He was twisting this way and that, completely refusing to go with them back to their black metal automobile that was clickety-clacking throughout the entire neighborhood. It was so noisy, I wished they would turn it off, but as I was about to walk closer to get a better view of the automobile, one of the officers, the tallest and meatiest one, pulled out a black shiny stick. It looked to be a piece of metal, stretching about the length of his forearm, and while I was still estimating its width, the officer swung it high over his head, bringing it down hard on the back of Simon’s head.
Simon collapsed on the floor almost immediately after the blow, and his mother let out a bloodcurdling shriek that made even my bones want to run and hide. There was another CRACK which could only mean one thing. Another strike had been made with the shiny black club. I hadn’t even realized that I had instinctively closed my eyes until I realized the world had suddenly gone black.
They quickly fluttered open and clamped shut again right after I took in the situation. I was crouched down now, in the middle of the street, only about an inch or two from the stone cold street. I had my arms around my skinny legs, pulling them closer to me, and my head down, was buried in between my knees, hoping to never see daylight again.
From what I had seen, the officers had struck Nadine’s father on the head and he had fallen to the ground too, after trying to help his son up after he too was hit with the club. Mrs. Gheller was paralyzed with fear, her eyes wide and glassy about to fall out of her head. Simon’s limp body was being dragged to the automobile, face up, feet first, each held by an officer, while they pretended, or simply didn’t care that they were trailing blood down from the porch to their monster of a vehicle.
There was also blood pooling next to Nadine’s father’s left ear, making things look awfully morbid and depressing as the military vehicle drove off, trailing clouds of gray smoke behind it. I saw Nadine on her knees by her father, violently shaking him, hoping he would awaken from the trance. He had his eyes closed, which was good. I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing into the eyes of someone I knew while they couldn’t see me back. It just seemed wrong somehow.
I sprinted the few yard to her porch, up the steps, and out of the little crouching position I had been in previously, kneeling down beside her trembling figure. She had never been tough, always called a baby by our fellow classmates who teased her almost as much as the teased Eleanor and me for our abnormal eye colours. She lifted her head enough to see me and then looked back down at her father. Her mother was still frozen in the doorway, unable to move, still staring her wide eyed stare at nothing in particular.
I turned back to Nadine, tears now pouring down her cheeks and off the rims of her curvy black glasses, onto her father’s chest. She looked up at me again, hope and despair filling her eyes and whispered through her quivering lips,
“Do you think he is going to be alright?”
I really didn’t want to answer that question because I really hated giving false hope to a friend, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to tell her that, judging by the amount of blood pooling around his head, he probably wasn’t going to make it. since my father was a doctor, I had picked up a few tricks along the way, but nothing seriously helpful in a situation like this one. So I decided to tell her truth, but to give her some false hope after I told her the news.
“Nadine,” I said in my most sweet, pleading voice, “he is losing a lot of blood and he suffered a serious blow to the head. Unless we can get him to a doctor real fast, I don’t think he is going to make it.” After I said that last word, she starting sobbing and crying even harder, so I quickly added, “But I’ll see what I can do for him right now and hopefully that will be enough until we can get a doctor.
“Thank you so much Jade! I knew you would help me!” She smiled a weak smile that although was not very brilliant, it held lots of feeling behind it, and I knew that I could not let her down.
I pulled off my left glove and felt under her father’s thick scarf for his neck. I pressed my cold fingers against his neck, searching for a pulse. Just a faint one would do, I couldn’t let Nadine down….please let him have a pulse…just a small one wou-
“Yes!” I yelled. I had found it. I nervously looked over my shoulder at the faces of all the people on the street who now all had their eyes trained on me. I quickly turned back to Nadine’s father, my cheeks flushing a bright red crimson from embarrassment.
Well at least he had a pulse…that was good right? I opened one of his eyelids with my thumb and forefinger, revealing a brown iris and a black pupil that was dilating, trying to adjust itself to the newly shed light that it had just been exposed to. I let his eyelid close, satisfied with the reaction I received from his pupil.
Now, time to deal with the blood. If only I could take all of the blood we were sitting in and stuff it back inside his head, maybe things would be easier, but right now, I just had to stop the flow of blood from staining my army green pants forever. I removed the leather belt from around my waist and tightened it across Mr. Gheller’s forehead, hoping the pressure would slow the flow, which it did, but only a little. I rolled his head over so that the side where blood was coming out would be sunny side up.
Then I did something I was definitely going to regret later. I tore the thick, cotton hem of my wool jacket off and tied it around Mr. Gheller’s head and over his ear. I tied it sort of sideways so that it completely covered his wound but didn’t cover his eyes, only the top of his left eyebrow. As I was tying the makeshift bandage’s knot, I quickly glanced over at Nadine, hoping she didn’t think I was trying to kill her father.
Nadine was just watching my hands tie the knot, with wide eyes and her mouth in the shape of a small, perfect O. She had her hands in tiny fists, pressed against her cheeks, scrunching her face together as if I was doing something so incredibly interesting that she must not miss even a second of it.
Nadine and I were really close and knew absolutely everything about each other. Since we were both teased a lot, we tended to hang around one another quite often. She knew I had a little knowledge about first aid, but I was surprised she was so interested in what I was doing.
I pulled my hands away from the knot and as I did, I watched her eyes as they followed my hand back into my glove, and then into my pocket. I took a deep breath and let it out, hoping I wasn’t going to kill him by cutting off the blood flow from his head to his ear.
I was a little worried to be honest. Nobody had moved or said anything since I had screamed Yes! Nadine seemed intent on only staring at her unmoving father. I decided to get going. Anastasia was probably wondering where I was right about now, and unless you wanted to die, you didn’t keep her waiting.
“Well,” I said nervously, “I had best be going, I have to go me-
“Thank you so much Jade! I don’t know what you did, but you sure looked like you knew what you were doing! Is he going to be alright now?” she asked me, her hands resting on her father’s chest.
“I really don’t know Nadine, I did what I’m sure my father would do, but I’m just not sure if-“
“You did great Jade, and in any case, he is not bleeding anymore,” she said through a smile as she eyed her father lying on her porch. I smiled back at her, glad she believed in me, but hoping that she hadn’t put too much faith in me, after all, something could go wrong, and then where would we be.
“Come on, help me get him inside.” I told her. “I don’t think it’s such a good idea to leave him lying here in the cold.”
Nadine, nodding vigorously, jumped to her feet and grabbed one of her father’s shoulders.
“Grab the other one will you?” she asked me nodding once in my direction.
“Sure,” I replied as I hopped up and took hold of his right shoulder.
“On the count of three,” she grunted as she wedged her arms under his left arm. “One,”
I quickly wedged my arms under his right arm and waited until three.
“Two, three, PULL!”
We lifted his upper body off the ground and pulled him through the open doorway, into the Gheller’s small house, though not as small as mine. We pulled him onto the small carpet in the middle of the room and gently set his shoulders down.
“We should probably wake him up soon,” I said. “I don’t think that it’s good for someone to be unconscious for so long.” I panted.
“Yeah,” Nadine gasped through shallow, staggered breaths.
At that moment, Nadine’s mom had decided to join us again in the world of the living and rushed into the room whispering her husband’s name.
“Henry, Henry, Henry,” she knelt beside him and brushed a few hairs off his forehead with her ring finger. “Is he going to be ok?” She looked up at me with those same worried eyes Nadine had a while ago.
I really wished that people would stop asking me that. I really didn’t know for sure, or what I was doing for that matter. For all I knew, I could be killing him already, but I really didn’t want to make Nadine’s mother worry, so I just said:
“Everything is going to be alright. I need you and Nadine to move Henry onto the couch.” I gestured with a quick nod to the couch on my right. “I’ll go and tell my father what has happened here. He can treat your father much better than I can.”
I jumped up from beside Henry and walked towards the door and through the threshold. On my way out I remembered something that they should do to keep Henry from bleeding again.
“Oh yeah, when you put him on the couch, make sure that the knot from the bandage is sunny side up.” I smiled at Nadine and her mother hoping that my father could help them.
And with that, I walked out the door and into the icy cold morning. Today was definitely an eventful day for the Gheller residence and a certain Jade Semchuk.