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Author's note: Please take a look! i wrote this for all audiences and i plan to add action sequences but it is unfinished so please wait!
They couldn’t take him. They couldn’t. Tearing him away from his family would rip us all apart. I couldn’t just let them take him like it didn’t matter, he might not come back. I feared for him and all of the others who were taken. I knew that none would have been taken willingly, but Ian didn’t even put up a fight. He simply said his lugubrious goodbyes, not looking any of us in the eyes when he did it. Mother was grief stricken and father looked dismally at the wall of one of our neighbors’ houses. The air around us hung in thick, pensive clumps, the fear, anxiety, and distress almost tangible.
At that second I become very aware of three things. One, my brother was leaving and probably never coming back. Two, I was going to do something about it whether I wanted to or not. And three, as my fists pounded on the back of the retreating figure of one of the officers, and he turned around to face me, glaring me down, he took hold of me by the top of my head and, whispering something so fast I couldn’t catch it, he thrust his hand forward, causing my head to snap backward with so much force that I fell down, head first, with a sickening CRACK!
I awoke to the sound of a P-51 jet roaring overhead. There had been more and more of them lately, waking me up earlier and earlier each time. Although the P-51 jets were among the most advanced and popular aircraft today, I was already sick of them. I looked out of the small window in my bedroom with the warped glass and peeling white painted, wooden frame, and pressed my cheek up against the glass.
I desperately tried to get a good view of the sky, but with my room being in the basement of our humble abode, it was downright impossible to see up there, into the heavens. I caught a warped glimpse of the blood-orange and salmon pink rays of sun streaming in though my window and dancing around my room, hitting the exact spot on the window I had intended them to.
When I woke up early due to the sound of the P-5 jets for the first few times about a month or two ago, I realized that sleep was impossible after the first jet took off at first light. I didn’t like getting up every day at daybreak, but I didn’t really have a choice.
I lived in Frankfurt, Germany. Living in the capital city of Germany, and Frankfurt, lying in the American Occupation Zone, and being the headquarters city of the U.S. Army in Germany, the talk of war being inevitable filled every newspaper, billboard, flyer, and mind. I was tired of feeling helpless and dejected and seeing nothing but new weapons, new jets, and new ways to kill people wherever I looked.
I watched the rainbow colors stream through my window and project themselves on my wall, looking as beautiful and crystalline as they had the first time. I focused my gaze on the exact pinpointed place I had determined the sun’s rays would hit at daybreak.
With my ivory and Japanese still knife I got from my father for my birthday last year, I had carved and shaved away some of the glass in about the middle of the window. I had cared a somewhat flat version of a large diamond into the glass, and when the sun hit it just right, at daybreak, it sent thousands of vivid rainbows and little rainbow shards like beams into my room, bathing my ceiling and walls in to their breathtaking luminescence and feeling of utter warmth sent to me by the rays of the sun itself.
My mother didn’t believe in using “ersatz sun” so we didn’t have a single light bulb in our five room house. Ersatz means false, or artificial, and my mother does not believe in using anything that is not “natural.” We still cook our meals over our small kitchen stove, but no light bulbs are allowed…anywhere.
This results in my broom-closet of a room being rather dark most of the time, except at daybreak, which is why my friend Nadine bought me a small portable book-light that I keep hidden under my bed. Her father is an inventor and told me that this is the latest small portable light he has made. I thanked him probably a million times, and I am very grateful, but I hardly ever get to use it with my parents around.
I propped myself up on one arm and tried to see the sun again, but to no avail. The sun eluded me and my room below the earth most of the time, so I wasn’t unaccustomed to the sparse amount of light in my room. I placed my precious knife on the window sill once more and sighed. Today was going to be a melancholy day. I could always tell, depending on how long my crystalline rainbow room stayed ablaze with the colors of the rainbow. I get of my warm, single bed with the quilt my mother made for me lying at the foot of it. The small fireplace in the corner of my room usually keeps me warm enough, so I often kick my quilt down to my feet to avoid being roasted to a golden brown.
I took in one last view of my rainbow room; waiting until the sun rose too high and the salmon rays of sunshine no longer hit my large glass diamond, passing above it, turning my room back to its former pale yellow-gray pallor.
I 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.
I awoke to the sound of thundering footsteps off in the distance. It was later than I had expected. The P-51 jets had not run their regular course, leaving me to wake myself up whenever I pleased. It was October 3rd, 1942. I did not see anything peculiar about this day, so I wondered why the planes were not flying.
Although the officers were probably a block or two away, I could still hear their boots stomp in unison as they marched in our direction, as if they were right outside my warped window pane. Oh no, I thought, someone was about to be taken, just like Simon was. I hoped that they didn’t struggle; I wasn’t really in the mood to watch another hopeless death match between the poor new recruit and the cruelly indifferent officers. They must really like their job, I thought to myself, tearing people away from their loved ones must amuse them. I knew that nobody would do this job if they had an actual family of their own.
I hopped out of bed and pulled on a green long sleeve tee with dark green stripes and many patchwork squares sewn throughout it. I put on my thick, padded black pants and midnight black army boots with many buckles and laces. They were terribly expensive, I think. I swiped them from a nearby pawn shop, without leaving anything in return. I had also taken these thick, warm pants that must have cost maybe a thousand or so marks. They were black leather on the outside with deep pockets in the back and on the sides, perfect for holding anything from a pair of shoes to the Colt M1911 my father kept “hidden” behind our shabby two shelf bookcase. They had soft, flannel lining and were a beautiful cracked black leather on the outside. Perfectly worn, and yet not too old either, I loved them, and only wore them when I thought something good or bad was going to happen.
People would start to question us if we had somehow obtained clothes that were more than three times my father’s salary, so I rarely wore these, but I loved them. They must have belonged to some boy. Girls are supposed to only wear skirts and dresses, but I run around more than anyone, what with running for my life from the kids at school who try to stone me when they get the chance.
I fastened the last strap on my boot and pulled my hazelnut brown hair into a tight ponytail off to the side that ran only an inch or two below my left shoulder. I finished brushing my hair and put in two bobby pins on either side of my head, to keep my bangs from flying into my face.
Then I got up from sitting on my bed and put on my warm black cloves and army green jacket that matched my shirt, and quietly tiptoed out of my room.
“Hello honey,” my father said wistfully to a wall about 90˚ from my left. He really didn’t look like he was talking to anybody in general, but I figured he was talking to me since the remainder of my family sat on one of the two armchairs in our tiny living room or on the couch.
Eleanor looked up at me with her large, now teary, purple and green eyes. We always knew what each other was going to say before she actually said it, so I answered the question Eleanor was asking before she even spoke. I answered the question with more intensity than I had intended.
“No they most definitely are not going to take him. I won’t let them,” I snarled. Whoops. All eyes on me. Definitely not what I had intended to happen, but Eleanor didn’t care that everyone was listening now; that was one of the things I love about her.
“How do you know they won’t try to take him by force?” Eleanor asked in a somewhat pleading tone. “Besides, you’re no match for the officers anyway.” Eleanor finished, reading me like an open book. I felt like she could see right through me and into my very soul. I sometimes thought I could almost feel her probing my brain for information when I withheld it from her.
“Will somebody please tell me what’s going on? It’s so creepy that you two can have your own little conversations without involving others, or even speaking for that matter,” Jackson said in an utterly confused voice that proved he really was completely clueless as to what we were talking about.
I had completely forgotten that he was there. He stood up from the patchwork armchair he had previously been sitting on and gave us both questioning looks. I shot him look that told him to mind his own business, but then Ian spoke up.
“Look,” Ian sighed, “there is a possibility that the military troops are coming to our house looking to recruit me, but the chances are equally high that they are coming for someone else. I do not relish the idea of one of our neighbors being drafted, and I would rather go than see the other families suffer.” He folded his hands in his lap and looked around the room at each one of us, but before he could even get from Jackson to me, my mother broke out sobbing.
Both of us knew that there were only two other 18 year old who lived on our block, and one of them had already been drafted, so Ian’s chances were fifty-fifty. I didn’t like those odds.
“But what about our family, Ian? You rather see us suffer than our neighbors?” Eleanor inquired.
“That’s not what I’m saying at all.” He glared at Eleanor who merely put up her hands defensively, opened her eyes wide, pleading total innocence and when that didn’t work, she shook her head slightly from side to side.
“What I’m trying to say, is that I know you guys are strong, and that if I do go, you will be able to hold the fort down while I’m gone.” Ian concluded.
“That’s right.” My father added. “We are perfectly capable of functioning without-” My father faltered.
My mother broke into short, staggered sobs again, while my father broke off mid-sentence. I know my dad loves Gabrielle, and to be honest, I do too. She’s been more of a mother than the one who left me at birth. It wasn’t her fault, she died from Leukemia at age 36 while I was only 3 years old. She named us all with American names because when we made enough money, she wanted us to go to America, but she wanted us to fit in. Only she had a real German name, Anastasia. I have a friend now with the same name, but we aren’t too close. Maybe it’s because of the way my mom Anastasia left me, that I don’t want the same thing to happen again.
My father got up from the couch between Eleanor and Ian and walked over to Gabrielle, patting her on the back and soothing her as best he could. I smiled and decided to finally take a seat in the other empty armchair. Jackson sat down again and leaned over and asked me what Eleanor were talking about.
“We were talking about Ian being drafted and forced to join the military.” I whispered under breath, as I was trying not to disturb Gabrielle and my father, Samuel.
Jackson gave me a quick, sharp nod in acknowledgement and returned to staring at the door. We could all hear them now. The thundering footsteps had now become small earthquakes shaking us all and paralyzing me and Jackson with fear and worry. Jackson looked as if he were going to bore a hole straight through the door, because of his intense staring, but just as I was about to ask him why, I heard something at the door.
Tap, tap, tap. Somebody rapped from the other side of the door. The door rattled around and we all were staring at it now. The term if looks could kill, crossed my mind, but I didn’t say anything. Now was not the time to make a joke. I turned to look at Gabrielle who had her face buried in my father’s shoulder, still sobbing silently. I watched her back fall and rise as she took in uneven gasps for air. My head snapped back to the door and I willed for it to lock itself, tight, so that the officers would be unable to gain entry to our home, but today was not my lucky day.
Knock, knock, knock! They pounded louder, probably thinking that we didn’t hear them the first time. In the end, it was Ian who opened the door, and he even managed to do it with a smile.
“Hello officers, what can I do for you today?” he said, smiling brightly.
As Ian picked up his lone maroon suitcase and stepped out of the line our family was now lined up in outside our front yard, I held back tears once again. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I couldn’t believe that they were taking our Ian away. I had seen my friends’ families being ruptured, but I never would have thought it would happen to mine. I just couldn’t take it. I wiped away the single tear that had betrayed me, now trailing its way down my cheek, and bit my lip. Stupid tears. They weren’t good for anything. They just displayed how vulnerable you were and showed your enemy your weak points.
Ian walked up to the officers in their gray-green uniforms and shiny black boots, through our old, rickety cobalt blue fence, and out into the uneven street. He looked so weak, standing next to the bulky, over confident officers in their shiny boots. It was as if the boots said Hey! Look at me, I’m shiny! The person who wears me has nothing better to do with their time than polish me!
I stared up at the sky once again, willing it to rain or do something. I hated it when I felt heavy hearted and the rest of the world couldn’t keep up with my emotions. Like the sun. It kept on shining atop the red roofs of all the houses on our block, despite the horribly depressing state my family was in.
The blinding rays from the sun shimmered off the newly fallen dew on our lawn, illuminating our yard with tiny diamonds. I looked up at one of the officers. He was smirking as if the fact we were in despair amused him. I hated him, and I mean really hated him. He was by far the biggest, but my father had always told me that I could never pick a fight with someone even remotely my size.
Ian hauled his suitcase up to the noisy automobile and onto one of the seats in the back. The officers just stood there, watching him climb in, with smirks plastered on their meaty faces. I watched them follow one-another into the car and drive off. He was gone. We all stood there, long after they were gone, me staring down some dust clouds that were settling back into the cold gray street, and everybody else looking in opposite directions, not one of them looking in the same direction. I could feel the tension in the air subside a bit, but then all that was left was a distillate feeling of abandonment.
Not being able to handle this heavy atmosphere, I turned on my heel and walked back inside our molehill of a house. I looked through each and every one of the rooms searching for something. Looking back, I suppose it was Ian I was looking for. When I had thoroughly searched each room and found no trace of him ever having been there, I returned to my room, throwing myself on my bed, and finally let myself burst into tears.
That night I fell asleep with my clothes and shoes on, not caring enough to remove them. I let the hopelessness I felt slip from my mind as I descended into unconsciousness. I replaced it with one thing and one thing only: the drive to do whatever it took to get Ian back.
I woke up at what must have been midnight. Having gone to bed at around six or 7:00, I was awake enough to think somewhat clearly. I already had on the clothes I wanted to wear from the previous day, so all I needed to do was grab a few extra things before my departure.
I grabbed my small army green bag that I slung over one shoulder and began to deposit all the items I planned to take with me in it. The first thing I put into my bag was my Japanese steel knife. It had a small sheath that I covered it with and a leather strap to tie onto something. On second thought, I placed it in one of the deep pockets in my leather pants. It might come in handy if it wasn’t at the bottom of my bag. I quickly found my book light that had been confidently paced on one of the three article of furniture in my room.
In my sparsely moonlit room, I could make out almost all of my belongings. There wasn’t much. I had a single bed, a three foot bookcase, and a shockingly small desk that I used as both a desk and a bedside table. There also was a stool that only had three feet, but I didn’t count that since it could so conveniently fit under the desk. I had a small closet to the right of my bed and the fireplace was at the foot of the bed, about four feet away.
I rummaged through my two desk drawers and pulled out a few sheets of paper and what looked like a blue pen. I found some envelopes and grabbed some of them as well. I quickly jotted down a note to my parents.
Mom & Dad,
Left to go get Ian. Back in a few days.
I didn’t want to say too much because I didn’t want to give them enough information about where I was. I didn’t want there to be a possibility of them coming after me. In the moonlight I could see that my handwriting wasn’t as good as when I could actually see what I was writing. Being left-handed, I often smudged my words, and I could tell that I had done just that by looking at my note. Thinking about my trip, I realized that I really wasn’t sure how long I would take, so I added:
To the end of my note. I quickly folded the page, sealed it with a kiss, and shoved it into a very unwilling envelope. I wrote on the envelope in what I hoped to be a neater font:
I placed it neatly atop my pillow on my unmade bed. I rummaged through my desk drawers again, pulling out three stamps and putting them in my bag with the paper, pen and envelopes. I took the brass timepiece I had snatched from some unlucky bystander and placed that in the bag as well.
I quickly tiptoed out of my room, up the few steps to the main floor and into our kitchen/ living room. I looked through some cabinets and some more drawers. I pulled out a small canteen and a large cloth napkin. I would fill the canteen with water from the pump outside, but as for the napkin, I reached in the cupboard until I produced a sweet roll, about the size of half my forearm, that was stuffed with small, colored candies and a creamy chocolate. It was covered in frosting and had small, coloured, candy beads sprinkled on the top. I licked my lips. I knew that this was delicious because I had swiped one from the baker’s cart about a month ago.
Ever since then, I have been taking one off his cart about once a week, and hiding them in our cupboard behind the spices and bottles of cooking oil. I also grabbed some salty, soft cheese and sweet plump grapes from inside another cabinet. I had picked them yesterday afternoon while I was still sour over Ian leaving, but now I knew he was coming back.
I placed all the food in the middle of the napkin and tied the corners together, creating the lunch bag my mother gave me when I went off to school. Although, since we were so poor, I often skipped school without anyone knowing and went off to do one or two odd jobs to help our family. The school consisted of other poor folk in our neighborhood, and there really was no way of contacting the parents if their child did not show up. I was almost positive they didn’t know where I lived, so I was safe for the time being.
Remembering the money I had saved up, hoping to buy a Birthday present for Ian, I silently crept to the tattered green couch in our living room and dug below one of the cushions for the small coin-purse of money I had been hiding for about a four years now.
I snapped it open and hurriedly counted the contents of the coin-purse. Three-hundred and seventy four marks along with an odd number of coins I hadn’t bothered to count. (This is about $93.50 in American dollars)Wow. I had saved up/stolen more than I thought. I smiled to myself mischievously. This was more than enough.
I snapped it shut, feeling the embroidered blue and pink flowers on the side. I remember it was yellow, but it really was hard to tell in the moonlight. Taking one last look at it I placed it in my bag and took out my timepiece. I held it up to the light, watching the moonlight catch it, and quickly looked at the hands. It was 12:27. I clicked it shut and looked around the room one more time. What else could I possibly need? I looked at the matchbox lying on the table and grabbed those as well. I opened it and counted the matches. There were seven. Rummaging one last time in the cupboard I pulled out a sturdy looking yellow candle. This was about all I needed to bring, I decided.
Looking around the room once again, I snaked my way to the kitchen door. It was the closest door to the pump outside, and as I creaked it open, I heard a noise behind me. I spun around so quickly that it hurt my neck. Crouched low, my hand instinctively resting on the pocket with my knife in it, I scanned the room for disturbance. When I found nothing out of the ordinary, I straightened back up and wondered why on earth I had my hand on the knife. What was I going to do? Cut one of my family members? I sighed and turned towards the door again, but there was the sound, again.
Tap. I turned around to see none other than Jackson, creeping towards the cabinets of the kitchen. He pulled something out, put it in a bag he had over his shoulder and turned towards me.
“Aaagh!” he screamed, quickly covering his mouth with both hands.
“Eeeep!” I shrieked, but then stopped myself before I could wake anyone up.
“What are you doing?!” he hissed at me.
“What are you doing?!” I mimicked back.
“I asked you first!” he muttered under his breath.
“Well I asked you second!”
“Gah! It doesn’t matter! I’m leaving!”
“What do you mean? And where are you going!” I murmured.
“Well I heard you fumbling through what must have been every drawer in the house and decided tha-”
I cut him off. I was sure we would wake somebody up if we kept up our fierce whispering.
“Can we continue this conversation outside? I don’t want everybody to wake up!” I whispered with such intensity it was sort of a quiet grumble. We were now about three inches away from each other’s faces, having been moving closer with every line we threw at one another.
Jackson quickly nodded in agreement and we both pulled away from each other as he strode passed me and through the now open door. Funny, I don’t remember having opened it. Anyway, I followed him out and as quickly and quietly as I could, pulled the door shut until I heard the small click that told me it was closed. I spun around, and to my even greater surprise found Eleanor sitting atop the pump, an apple in her hand, chewing away.
Her legs were dangling off the side, and she was keeping herself on it with one hand while she held the apple with the other. In the lowlight I thought I must have been hallucinating from lack of sleep, so I rubbed my eyes with my fists, blinked a few times, but to my astonishment she was still there. Jackson was staring at her too.
“What are you doing here!?” he hissed at Eleanor.
“Eating an apple,” Eleanor replied calmly. She said it as if eating an apple at 1:00a.m., outside our house, sitting on a water pump, was a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Jackson turned back to me.
“I wasn’t finished talking to you, and you didn’t answer my question.” he turned to me and said at a normal volume level.
“Well you didn’t answer mine.” I replied firmly, my jaw set.
“Why do you have to be so difficult?” Jackson said, exasperated. “It doesn’t matter anyway.” he shook his head and held up his hand. “I’m leaving.”
“And where do you think you are headed, dear brother?” Eleanor inquired, her perfectly shaped eyebrows arched up in a look of complete and utter confusion.
“What does is matter to you?” Jackson shot back.
Eleanor hopped down from the pump and took one last bite from her apple, then tossed it over her shoulder and walked towards Jackson and me.
“Well, if it concerns Ian, which it probably does, considering you have nowhere else to go at 1:00a.m. the day after he is drafted, it matters to me because you really have nowhere to go without a map of the army base.” She finished, her eyes cold, and glaring him down, a smile playing at her lips. She had seen right through him.
Eleanor looked at the both of us and said:
“I trust you both have left similar notes as well? I know I left one on the kitchen table.” She accused mischievously. “You wouldn’t want mom and pa to worry, now would you?”
“Well…I uh...I umm…” Jackson mumbled, reaching one hand behind his head and scratching a newly found itch.
“I thought so,” Eleanor smirked. She turned then to me, stunned that she had seen through him so quickly. “And Jade, you look as if you are about to collapse from exhaustion. Are you sure you don’t want to head back to bed?”
“What? How can you even ask me that? I’ve come too far to give up now!” I wanted to cry. I felt as if Eleanor was trying to get me not to go, to give up. I knew now that she planned to go with Jackson, but to leave me behind, her twin, that was…was…unthinkable!
“Very well then, let us be off!” Eleanor walked up to me, looked me up and down and said:
“It’s about time. I had been waiting for you and Jackson out here for over half an hour!”
“I...uh…” I sputtered. I wasn’t really sure how to answer to that.
Eleanor looked me up and down again, seeming pleased with my appearance, and quickly added:
“Do fill that canteen up. It’s just a waste of space in your bag if it does not hold any fluid.” She smiled at me through the moonlight. I was somewhat shocked that she knew about the canteen, but my eyes had begun to feel heavy and had been threatening to close themselves for a while now if I did not do something to wake myself up, I really wasn’t that surprised. I had always assumed that Eleanor possessed some kind of clairvoyance.
I nodded and turned towards the water pump. Pulling my canteen out of my bag, I unscrewed the top and filled it to the brim with the icy cold water. I screwed the top back on and placed it back in my bag. I cupped my hands under the icy water and splashed it in my face, letting myself be submerged in the water, letting new chills running down my spine.
I walked back to Jackson and Eleanor, through our fence. Eleanor was sitting on the rickety fence, her slight, small frame not threatening to shake the fence at all. She had one foot hanging down from the fence, and the other one pressed against the fence, her head cocked slightly to the side, smiling at me.
Jackson was looking at his feet, hoping to avoid my penetrating gaze, but it didn’t work. He felt my eyes on him and glanced up quickly, catching my stern gaze and then looking back down at his feet, shuffling them and turning red in the face.
I smiled at Eleanor who hopped off the gate and began walking down the cobblestone street.
“Let us be off! I can see the sun rising and I don’t want to be caught mom or dad!”
Eleanor shouted at us, and then began running down our block towards the base about three miles away.
I smiled to myself, knowing that with her help, and maybe Jackson’s as well, we might actually be able to pull this off! We might actually be able to save Ian! I took off after and then screamed over my shoulder to Jackson.
“Come on Jackson! You don’t want to miss this, if you do, I’m sure you will regret it for the rest of your life!” I laughed for the first time in what felt like days. I saw him look up and smile at me like Eleanor had. It was a smile filled with hope, and that was exactly what we needed right now.
He broke into a run and followed me down our street. Both of us whipping by houses in a blur, smiling all the way. He was fast, but I was faster. Much faster. He followed suit while I caught up with Eleanor. She was staring at the sunrise. It was beautiful. I had never seen one before, having lived almost underground, and found this one breathtaking.
“This is definitely going to be a good day Jade, I can feel it.” Eleanor said wistfully. I decided I was going to believe Eleanor, after all, she was almost never wrong.
I stumbled along the cobblestone street in the dark. I could only see a few feet ahead of me in the early morning light. As my tired feet dragged themselves, one after the other, I finally could make out the military base in the distance.
“Wait up Eleanor!” Jackson panted. His voice was thick and slurred from lack of sleep, and I could plainly tell that we were all pretty much exhausted. I could now clearly see the sun, despite my droopy eyelids. It was bright, vivid, and a little blurry, but otherwise beautiful. It was probably the one thing that was keeping me awake.
I had pulled off my gloves a few hours ago. I was sure that it was now about 3 or 4a.m. I was not happy about this little fact, and neither were my heavy limbs. I eyed Eleanor with envy. She was skipping and twirling around in circles, enjoying the early morning sun, not looking tired at all. What is with this girl? Doesn’t she ever sleep?! I thought to myself through shallow, short pants making their way out of my mouth.
She glared at me, as if she had heard what I had just said to myself…in my head. What? I thought, still looking at her.
“Nothing, just that I don’t need as much sleep as you two slugs, and that I thought you were supposed to be the fastest in the family.” A friendly smirk played on her lips as I watched her turn around again, and walk towards the base.
“Whaa?” Jackson inquired. “I have absolutely NO idea what you two are talking about, but right now, I really couldn’t care less. Can we pleeeaase just focus on some sleep? I really can’t focus right now… I feel like I’m…about to…collapse.” Jackson yawned and with that, he passed out in the middle of the dirt path, sprawled out on top of some blackberry bushes.
“Ouch,” Eleanor cringed. “There are a whole bunch of thorns sticking into his arm.” I surveyed Jackson’s arm, and sure enough, there were a handful of thorns sticking into his arm. They clearly weren’t stuck in his arm very deep, otherwise he would have probably woken up.
“I don’t know very many people who can do that…” Eleanor faltered. She didn’t have much of choice, what with Jackson’s absurdly loud snoring, but she managed to squeeze in the last few words of her sentence.
“Do what?” I asked her, blinking one droopy eye after the other. I hadn’t heard much of the conversation, but I had heard snippets of it, so I did my best to tune back into what she was saying.
“Why, sleep on top of a blackberry bush with thorns of course! Look! There are several stuck in his cheek right now!” She burst out laughing and then fell over as well, but lucky Eleanor fell on a patch of soft, damp grass, and closed her eyes, drifting off into a pleasant slumber with a smile still plastered across her face.
“Heh,” I panted as I glanced up at the sky, and straight at the sun’s hot rays. “I guess they really were more tired than I was.” I let my eyes close, and fell to my knees. “I win…” I whispered under my breath as I felt myself falling forward, deeper and deeper into unconsciousness until…
Smack! I awoke with a start. I shot straight up and thrust my upper body off the ground. I woke up on my back, which was now throbbing as if it had been dragged over rough stones all night. Somehow, I had made my way onto my back, under the shade of a peach tree, and had removed my bag from my shoulder and my knife from my pocket…without knowing it…while I was asleep.
I surveyed Jackson, snoring away on his backside with several large red splotches, dotting his arm and cheek. And snapped my gaze to Eleanor, munching away on a peach and sitting on a nearby white, wooden picket fence. Behind her I could see some cows grazing on a large, lush green meadow, and in front of her, I saw the dirt road we had apparently come down. On the dirt path, I could see two long lines that had been cleared away a bit, as if something…or someone more specifically, had dragged something down it. Those dirt trails look awfully suspicious, as if somebody- but something interrupted my thoughts.
“Relax,” Eleanor said through a mouthful of peach. “I dragged you both here in the middle of the night, so you wouldn’t have to walk all this way. Aren’t you grateful?”
“Ummm…I guess, but how did you-” I inquired, giving Eleanor an extremely quizzical look.
“I just dragged you both on your backs while you were both passed out in the middle of the road. I figured it would make for an awfully unsuccessful rescue mission if you were both run over by a military automobile,” She explained.
“Ughnn..” Jackson moaned, still asleep.
I looked at him and his small puncture wounds. I poked at his cheek, spotted one remaining thorn, and pulled it out.
“Ow!” Jackson yelped, now clearly awake. “What the-”
“Eleanor apparently dragged us both here in our sleep.” I informed him. He nodded slightly and then stopped, massaging his neck. “How did you do it Eleanor?” I asked, turning to her.
“Well, you were easy. You were no heavier than the bag you were carrying.”
I blushed, I had always been strong, but extremely light no matter how much I ate, which wasn’t much considering how lacking in funds our family was.
“Jackson,” she said, glaring at him, “on the other hand was downright impossible. After I got you here, I had to go back for him, and he really liked the spot he was lying, right on top of a huge pointy rock. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time, so I kept trying to drag you along until I heard a small rip.”
He glared back at her, but more with curiosity that fury.
“Sorry about your shirt.” Eleanor said through another bite of her peach, still atop the white picket fence.
Jackson tried to pull his shirt around to the front and inspect what damage was done. There was a big gap in the back of his shirt.
“Oh yeah,” Eleanor told him. “Don’t try to get up to fast, you had a nasty cut from the rock you collapsed on.” This time Jackson glared at her with fury, and felt at his backside. Sure enough, as he turned, there was a big cut across his upper back. “It was me, I promise!” Eleanor replied defensively, holding her perfectly manicured hands up. “When you collapsed, your weight probably brought you down hard on that rock, I’m surprised you didn’t wake up as soon as you hit it, but I guess you must have been really tired.”
Jackson muttered something unintelligible under his breath. I sighed and tried to get up, but my back hurt too.
“It probably had something to do with the fact that you were dragged on your backside, over rocks and bumps on a dirt road for a good three hours. You know, you really should thank me. Maybe giving me some of the bread you have in your pack would even your debt to me a bit.” She smiled pleadingly yet sweetly and batted her eyelashes a bit.
I sighed again. I couldn’t help it. Everything about Eleanor was perfect. She had long, dark brown, almost black hair, that fell in big waves down her back and flowed neatly over her shoulders, only an inch or so below her chest. She had her piercing, yet strikingly beautiful eyes that only added to her beauty and didn’t make her a freak like it did me. She had the same build I did, more feline, though not as muscular as me, it worked for her and made her appear more delicate than she actually was. She had pale skin, no freckles, full pink lips even without makeup, and long thick eyelashes, making it impossible to resist her when batted.
I reached for my purse sitting beside me. I was sitting up now, cross legged, but my back was still a bit sore. I had gotten used to Eleanor’s apparent mindreading, as I could read hers, on occasion, when she allowed me to do so. It appeared that she could block me whenever she pleased, but I was merely an open book for her to read whenever she felt like it.
I lifted the flap of the purse and pulled out the small lunch I had wrapped up. I hoped it was still good, and not squashed to smithereens by the overnight trip that took place while I was sleeping.
I untied the small sack and inspected the contents. Everything looked fine. The soft, salty cheese still looked as delectable as ever and the roll looked like it would make a perfect meal. I saw Jackson eyeing the bread with hungry eyes, still rubbing his neck. And Eleanor was watching every movement my hands made, as if it was imperative for her to memorize all of my actions.
In the end, I split the food between the three of us. Not being able to bare Jackson’s hungry gaze as Eleanor was about to scarf her portion down, I gave in and split everything into thirds. It all made for a good meal, and seeing that no one else had thought to bring food, or money, I was quite pleased with myself for thinking ahead. We each had some water too. Luckily we had all brought our own canteens that were quickly emptied. I’m not sure what would have happened if we all had to share one. We had all developed an extreme thirst, but the sun was shining awfully bright, coming down in patched through the peach tree’s leaves, splattering us all with sunshine.
We would get Ian back tonight, I knew it. If we didn’t get him tonight, before the new troops were shipped out to a different station, we would have a chance to bring him home with us. I was sure of it.
“Okay, so everyone knows the plan?” Eleanor asked Jackson and I. She looked at each one of our determined faces.
I tried to look expressionless, but my straight black hair that was now covering my face and pale skin proved to display some sort of nervousness, so Jackson reached out his arm and padded me on the back in what must have been a comforting way. It was 9:30p.m. We had spent all day devising a plan on how to bail out Ian from where he was being held. We were all pretty tired so we all wound up taking a nap and relaxing under the shade of the peach tree, eating a dinner of nothing but peaches.
My leather pants were holding up, as was my jacket. I hoped that we wouldn’t have to resort to violence, because that would not solve anything. That would only make our situation worse, but none the less I tucked my knife within the folds of jacket and stood up. It was now almost pitch black outside, with a chilling breeze blowing my hair behind my back and out of my face. I turned my head in the direction of the base, now a menacing light in the distance, daring whoever was brave enough to come closer and see what was in store for them.
Eleanor and Jackson also arose. We all stepped back a bit; breaking the small huddle we once were squatting in. Eleanor nodded to both of us and murmured almost silently to us:
“Be careful, quick, and quiet…and don’t let General Lancaster catch you!” Her words were whipped away by the wind, but I heard her.
Jackson was staring at me, his eyes full of some ancient sadness I knew not of. He turned and began walking in the direction he was supposed to head in, but then turned back quickly and swept me up into a tight, bone crushing bear hug that pulled me to him in an instant. He whispered to me and said:
“Good luck Jade. And promise not to get caught just to find Ian faster, please. Do this for me.” And with that, he pulled back, kissed me on the forehead, released me, and then took off, heading north. I smiled to myself in the moonlight. Jackson was never one for physical affection, so his hug had surprised me, but I was still glad that he had done it. I bent down to tie my laces tighter, one more time and then took off in the opposite direction.
This was it, we were going to get Ian back, but unfortunately, I knew that I was not going to keep my promise to Jackson. I was going to have to get caught in order to enter the jail near the barracks. There just wasn’t enough time to sneak my way across the yard to the barracks. There just wasn’t.
I was precariously perched on the edge of a tree limb, my weight barely weighing down the branch. As far as the tree was concerned, I was just a very big squirrel who had eaten a few too many berries during the winter. I was about 20 feet about the headquarters building for the military base. The branch I had chosen stretched over the tall, brick wall that kept all military business within it. I was squatting down, carefully and quietly edging one foot in front of the other, getting as close to the end of the tree branch without causing it to snap. I edged closer.
“Just a bit more,” I muttered to myself, “Just a little further until you drop to your death and splatter all over that black roof below.”
This was it. This was as far as I dared go without the tree limb threatening to break. I hoped Eleanor and Jackson were in position. I didn’t think I would be able to squat here much longer. I looked at the two corners opposite me, trying to see Eleanor or Jackson. I scanned the horizon and eventually spotted them. Eleanor, hanging upside-down from her knees, was dangling from another tree about a mile away. I could just make out her ponytail swinging behind her, and her red penguin style jacket hanging behind her. Her black and white striped shirt revealed her stomach, and her black khaki clad legs were draped over the tree’s limb. I have no idea why she decided to wear such a conspicuous outfit. Her red vinyl jacket and flats were reflecting the moonlight and made her look like a searchlight.
Jackson was perched on his branch in a safer way, like me. He caught my eye and nodded, giving me the signal that it was time to drop. We had all decided to enter the base at the same time, so that if one of us was caught, they could distract the rest of the camp, and the others might be able to make their way to the barracks.
Eleanor had apparently seen the signal too; because she was now perched like I was and ready to drop. I nodded at her, turned on my heels, and dropped, but caught myself by my arms as planned. I tried swaying back and forth, my gloves providing a great grip on its wooden surface, and surprisingly, the branch obeyed and swayed closer to the gathering of pine needles atop the black roofed building. I hoped that it would cushion my fall enough to not injure and not attract the entire camp’s attention.
I swayed one last time. Close, and then far, close and then far, and then let grip loosen on the branch, launching me through the air and towards the clump of pine needles. I had to use every ounce of courage that I had to not scream as the black roof got closer and closer until…
Thump! Amazingly I had landed right on target and had not made too much noise I sighed and let out a long breath, filling my lungs with the icy cold morning air once again. I gazed up at the stars, thankful not to have broken anything, but I was still a bit sore. I knew that I would be covered in bruises tomorrow, but I still survived about a 15 foot drop! That was definitely something to be proud of. I sat up quickly, my ears tuning back into the sounds around me. There was the rustle of leaves from a nearby tree, crickets, quiet marching, the breeze and voices. Voices! And they were nearing my hiding place! I jumped to my feet and sprinted to the edge of the roof, then made an abrupt stop. I had made a lot of noise and was now silently praying that I had not been discovered.
“Raleigh, I’m sure you didn’t hear anything. It’s middle of the night. Nobody would come here at such an early hour. Come on back to dining hall with me. I hear that the cook brought out an early morning supper.”
“Look Hampton, I’m sure I heard something. Let’s just check the roof to be sure that there is nothing up there and then we can head in. I know I heard something running around up there.”
“Fine, but you get to take my next shift.” The solider by the name of Raleigh grumbled.
“Whatever, just help me get the ladder off the ground so we can check.”
There was a sigh and then some groaning. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I thought the ladder was made of metal from all the clanging sounds it made as the two soldiers tried to put it upright. My heart had stopped in its tracks, not daring to beat at all, but then I remembered that I needed to get caught in order to get to the barracks in time. I really hoped that Eleanor and Jackson had made out okay, but I knew I would have to worry about them later. It was time to worry about me right now. I heard them finally prop the ladder against the roof, and then took a few steps back from the roof’s edge. I didn’t want to fall off, but I also didn’t want to get caught before I was ready.
I fumbled around in my bag until my hands found purchase on my knife in it’s ivory case. I slipped it down my bootleg and shook my boot, making sure it had found somewhere to nestle itself in. I also pulled my timepiece from my bag, wrapped its chain around itself and slid it down my other boot. Shaking that leg out, I watched one of the solider poked his head above the roof and scanned the horizon. He was young and looked pretty friendly. I was glad to be caught by these two. The one now staring straight at me, Hampton I presumed, had a round face, brown eyes and short, cropped blonde hair. He had an A. Hampton embroidered in fancy calligraphy on his right breast pocket. His eyes popped wide open as he saw me, and I, not knowing what else to do, cocked my head to the side, smiled sweetly at him and blinked twice. Confusion washed over his features, causing his eyebrows to knit in confusion and what appeared to be frustration.
“There is someone up here!” Hampton shouted! “You were right!” But then, as quickly as his wave of confusion had arisen, anger washed over him, and he ran up the ladder and grabbed me by the arm. He couldn’t be a day over 20. He reminded me of Ian…
“Well, don’t just stand up there! Bring the lad down!” Raleigh chided. Hampton pushed me away from him a bit, trying to size me up, and then his eyes popped open even wider.
“It’s not a lad we have here, it’s a lass!” Hampton exclaimed!
“A girl! There is a GIRL up here! She is dressed as a man, but she is definitely a girl, I can tell by her-
“Hey!” I shouted, “I’m right here ya know!”
“You’re right Hampton!” Raleigh yelped, “It is a girl, I can tell by her voice!” Hampton was still eyeing me and then shouted down to Raleigh:
“Yes, and she’s pretty too!” I blushed. Nobody had ever called me pretty before, but then I stopped short. He probably hadn’t noticed my eyes, and hadn’t gotten the chance to call me a freak yet. With the hand that was not being held by Hampton, I brushed some of my long black bangs out of my ponytail, and over my purple eye. I figured that green wasn’t to unnatural a color, even though my green was breathtakingly bright and just as shocking in hue. “Hey, stop that!” Hampton said, grabbing my other arm as well. His eyes narrowed, but he did not attempt to move the bangs from my eyes.
“Well bring her down here! Let General Lancaster have a look at her and he’ll decide what to do with her!” shouted Raleigh from below. I turned my gaze away from Hampton and down at Raleigh. Hampton still hadn’t quit staring at me, and as soon as Raleigh said General Lancaster, my stomach had started to churn. I frowned and tried to pull away from Hampton and his awkward gaze, but he gripped my arms tighter leaned closer, as if trying to see something hidden in my appearance. Which of course there was, but I didn’t feel that he needed to see my eye. The last thing I wanted was to be made fun of by two people I didn’t even know.
“Now I don’t want any funny business,” Hampton said to me, trying to look me in the eye while I still tried to avoid his gaze. “Look at me!” he said to me in a loud voice. He shook me back and forth, and in doing so, moved the bangs away from my eye, revealing it and all its purple goodness. I looked up at him, aware that my time was up. “Would you look at that.” he murmured, suddenly entranced by my gaze. “Two different colours, just like…Anastasia.”
“Wait, what?” I stuttered, “How do you know-” But Raleigh cut me off.
“What’s going on up there?” Raleigh screeched from below. I could tell he was getting impatient.
Hampton continued to stare at me in his trance, but then shook it off and gripped my arms tighter once more. “Don’t try anything funny. I have a gun in my left pocket, and if you try to run, I’ll shoot.”
I nodded briskly, staring up at him. There was something vaguely familiar about him. I knew him from somewhere, but how did he know about Anastasia? And did he know me? From the look of utter puzzlement on his face I guessed not, but still…
Hampton pushed me towards the edge of the roof. I stumbled, but he caught me since he had still not let go of my arms.
“Well, go on then. Climb on down.” He nodded to the metal ladder and let my arms go. I turned toward it, but then back up at him. In the shadowy night, I couldn’t see him completely, but he still looked like a nice person, and gave me a strange sense 2of déjà vu when I looked at him. I cocked my head to the side, but he broke his gaze away and nudged me again towards the ladder with his hand.
I turned around again and headed down the ladder.
“Would you look at that? An actual girl on our roof! I can’t believe it!” Raleigh shrieked.
“Don’t get too excited,” I smirked at him, “I don’t plan to stay long.”
“Ha! She’s got spunk! And she’s dressed like a boy! I never thought I’d see the day!” Raleigh almost giggled with delight. I chuckled to myself and jumped off one of the rungs of the ladder that was a ways from the ground. I pulled off my gloves and tucked the in one of the inside pockets of my jacket. Raleigh tensed and pulled his gun from its holster by his side.
“Don’t move!” He shouted. “I don’t want to hurt you but I will if necessary!”
“Relax Raleigh,” Hampton replied. He made his way down the ladder and jumped off like I had. “The General with want to see her. It would be best not to blow her brains out before then.”
“Right,” Raleigh agreed. It was easy to see that Hampton was Raleigh’s superior. It looked liked Hampton was a lieutenant and Raleigh was his sub officer.
“Come on, we better bring her to him quickly, I don’t know how late it will be before they let her go.”
“Alright.” Raleigh straightened up and put his gun back into its holster by his side. “come on then girlie. It’s time to meet the nice old General I’m sure that he will be as glad to see you as you are to see him.” Raleigh smiled slyly and took my left arm. In the harsh light that now was shining down on me from all of the lights lining the sidewalks of the base, I could tell that Hampton and Raleigh were opposites. Raleigh looked devious but obedient while Hampton looked kind but rebellious. Hampton grabbed my left arm, and they both began marching towards the door of the headquarters building just a few feet away.
I could tell that I was in trouble and I knew that I would regret having done this, but there wasn’t much time before sunrise, and our entire operation depended on the cover of darkness, and the time we had prior to the arrival of the other generals to this base. As the officers on either side of me thrust the large metal doors in front on me open, and dragged me into the sickeningly white room, I stared straight into the eyes of General Lancaster.
“Well, well, well, what do we have here? I hope that this little fox hasn’t strayed too far the pack.” The general sneered. He looked to the left of the desk at which he was sitting, and at Eleanor and Jackson with their arms being held behind their backs by a pair of very unfriendly looking soldiers with indifferent expressions plastered on their pale faces.
Jackson had his head hung down. And I could see a long cut stretching from his right eyebrow to a bit below his cheek. Luckily, whatever had cut him had missed his eyelid, but had continued down his cheek after that. He looked unconscious, and he could have been, since he and Eleanor were both on their knees. Eleanor looked up suddenly when she heard me gasp, and I could see a big, purple bruise forming on her left cheek.
I simply stared wide eyed with horror at them, and then back at the general. He had brown hair and dark brown, almost black beady little eyes shoved into face. He had a long face, and a menacing grin that stretched just a little too far across his face in a very unnerving and inhuman way.
“Take those two the jail cells we have so kindly prepared for them,” he said in a horrifying voice. It sounded like razors, sharp and earsplitting even at a low volume. “But leave that girl with me.” He said, pointing at me.
Hampton nodded unhappily and took Raleigh with him over to Eleanor and Jackson. The four officers forced Eleanor and Jackson to their feet and dragged them away, through another set of white doors behind them. This whole place looked and smelled like a hospital, except for the metallic sharp smell that I began to recognize as blood. I sank to my feet after Raleigh and Hampton and Raleigh had let go of my arms. I felt helpless and alone as General Lancaster approached me, a long knife glinting in its holster by his side. I could tell he wasn’t one for guns, and was glad for that.
My head hung down, and I was sitting somewhat on my knees, my arms sprawled out on either side of me, not caring what happened now. The whole break in attempt seemed pathetic and hopeless now. There never really was a chance for us to actually rescue Ian.
I sat there, staring at the ground, enveloped in my own dismal thoughts until I heard General Lancaster’s footsteps nearing where I sat on the ground. I slowly raised my head, reluctant to meet his gaze. This was going to be bad, I could just feel it. It was silly to come here. To think we actually stood a chance against the military. It all started with the stupid military drafting. If only Ian could be home with us right now, away from all of this military business. This was going to be it. We had come so far, but our efforts were futile in the end. The military would always win.
And with that, I closed my eyes and prayed. For Ian. For Eleanor. For Jackson. And family.