"I think the Hirsches all went on a vacation to the seashore," Kirsti announced.
"And I suppose they took a big basket of pink-frosted cupcakes with them," Annemarie said sarcastically to her sister.
"Yes, I suppose they did," Kirsti replied.
Annemarie and Ellen exchanged looks that meant: Kirsti is so dumb. No one in Copenhagen had taken a vacation at the seashore since the war began. There were no pink-frosted cupcakes; there hadn't been for months.
Still, Annemarie thought, looking back at the shop before they turned the corner, where was Mrs. Hirsch? The Hirsch family had gone somewhere. Why else would they close the shop?
Mama was troubled when she heard the news. "Are you sure?" she asked several times.
"We can find another button someplace," Annemarie reassured her. "Or we can take one from the bottom of the jacket and move it up. It won't show very much."
But it didn't seem to be the jacket that worried Mama. "Are you sure the sign was in German?" she asked. "Maybe you didn't look carefully."
"Mama, it had a swastika on it."
Her mother turned away with a distracted look. "Annemarie, watch your sister for a few moments. And begin to peel the potatoes for dinner. I'll be right back."
"Where are you going?" Annemarie asked as her mother started for the door.
"I want to talk to Mrs. Rosen."
Puzzled, Annemarie watched her mother leave the apartment. She went to the kitchen and opened the door to the cupboard where the potatoes were kept. Every night, now, it seemed, they had potatoes for dinner. And very little else.
Annemarie was almost asleep when there was a light knock on the bedroom door. Candlelight appeared as the door opened, and her mother stepped in.
"Are you asleep, Annemarie?"
"No. Why? Is something wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong. But I'd like you to get up and come out to the living room. Peter's here. Papa and I want to talk to you."
Annemarie jumped out of bed, and Kirsti grunted in her sleep. Peter! She hadn't seen him in a long time. There was something frightening about his being here at night. Copenhagen had a curfew, and no citizens were allowed out after eight o'clock. It was very dangerous, she knew, for Peter to visit at this time. But she was delighted that he was here. Though his visits were always hurried—they almost seemed secret, somehow, in a way she couldn't quite put her finger on—still, it was a treat to see Peter. It brought back memories of happier times. And her parents loved Peter, too. They said he was like a son.
Barefoot, she ran to the living room and into Peter's arms. He grinned, kissed her cheek, and ruffled her long hair.
"You've grown taller since I saw you last," he told her. "You're all legs!"
Annemarie laughed. "I won the girls' footrace last Friday at school," she told him proudly. "Where have you been? We've missed you!"
"My work takes me all over," Peter explained. "Look, I brought you something. One for Kirsti, too." He reached into his pocket and handed her two seashells.
Annemarie put the smaller one on the table to save it for her sister. She held the other in her hands, turning it in the light, looking at the ridged, pearly surface. It was so like Peter, to bring just the right gift.
"For your mama and papa, I brought something more practical. Two bottles of beer!"
Mama and Papa smiled and raised their glasses. Papa took a sip and wiped the foam from his upper lip. Then his face became more serious.
"Annemarie," he said, "Peter tells us that the Germans have issued orders closing many stores run by Jews."
"Jews?" Annemarie repeated, "Is Mrs. Hirsch Jewish? Is that why the button shop is closed? Why have they done that?"
Peter leaned forward. "It is their way of tormenting. For some reason, they want to torment Jewish people. It has happened in the other countries. They have taken their time here—have let us relax a little. But now it seems to be starting."
"But why the button shop? What harm is a button shop? Mrs. Hirsch is such a nice lady. Even Samuel—he's a dope, but he would never harm anyone. How could he—he can't even see, with his thick glasses!"
Then Annemarie thought of something else. "If they can't sell their buttons, how will they earn a living?"
"Friends will take care of them," Mama said gently. "That's what friends do."
Annemarie nodded. Mama was right, of course. Friends and neighbors would go to the home of the Hirsch family, would take them fish and potatoes and bread and herbs for making tea. Maybe Peter would even take them a beer. They would be comfortable until their shop was allowed to open again.
Then, suddenly, she sat upright, her eyes wide. "Mama!" she said. "Papa! The Rosens are Jewish, too!"
Her parents nodded, their faces serious and drawn. "I talked to Sophy Rosen this afternoon, after you told me about the button shop," Mama said. "She knows what is happening. But she doesn't think that it will affect them."
Annemarie thought, and understood. She relaxed. "Mr. Rosen doesn't have a shop. He's a teacher. They can't close a whole school!" She looked at Peter with the question in her eyes. "Can they?"
"I think the Rosens will be all right," he said. "But you keep an eye on your friend Ellen. And stay away from the soldiers. Your mother told me about what happened on Østerbrogade."
Annemarie shrugged. She had almost forgotten the incident. "It was nothing. They were only bored and looking for someone to talk to, I think."
She turned to her father. "Papa, do you remember what you heard the boy say to the soldier? That all of Denmark would be the king's bodyguard?"
Her father smiled. "I have never forgotten it," he said.
"Well," Annemarie said slowly, "now I think that all of Denmark must be bodyguard for the Jews, as well."
"So we shall be," Papa replied.
Peter stood. "I must go," he said. "And you, Longlegs, it is way past your bedtime now." He hugged Annemarie again.
Later, once more in her bed beside the warm cocoon of her sister, Annemarie remembered how her father had said, three years before, that he would die to protect the king. That her mother would, too. And Annemarie, seven years old, had announced proudly that she also would.
Now she was ten, with long legs and no more silly dreams of pink-frosted cupcakes. And now she—and all the Danes—were to be bodyguard for Ellen, and Ellen's parents, and all of Denmark's Jews.
Would she die to protect them? Truly? Annemarie was honest enough to admit, there in the darkness, to herself, that she wasn't sure.
For a moment she felt frightened. But she pulled the blanket up higher around her neck and relaxed. It was all imaginary, anyway—not real. It was only in the fairy tales that people were called upon to be so brave, to die for one another. Not in real-life Denmark. Oh, there were the soldiers; that was true. And the courageous Resistance leaders, who sometimes lost their lives; that was true, too.
But ordinary people like the Rosens and the Johansens? Annemarie admitted to herself, snuggling there in the quiet dark, that she was glad to be an ordinary person who would never be called upon for courage.
4. It Will Be a Long Night
Alone in the apartment while Mama was out shopping with Kirsti, Annemarie and Ellen were sprawled on the living room floor playing with paper dolls. They had cut the dolls from Mama's magazines, old ones she had saved from past years. The paper ladies had old-fashioned hair styles and clothes, and the girls had given them names from Mama's very favorite book. Mama had told Annemarie and Ellen the entire story of Gone With the Wind, and the girls thought it much more interesting and romantic than the king-and-queen tales that Kirsti loved.
"Come, Melanie," Annemarie said, walking her doll across the edge of the rug. "Let's dress for the ball."
"All right, Scarlett, I'm coming," Ellen replied in a sophisticated voice. She was a talented performer; she often played the leading roles in school dramatics. Games of the imagination were always fun when Ellen played.
The door opened and Kirsti stomped in, her face tear-stained and glowering. Mama followed her with an exasperated look and set a package down on the table.
"I won't!" Kirsti sputtered. "I won't ever, ever wear them! Not if you chain me in a prison and beat me with sticks!"
Annemarie giggled and looked questioningly at her mother. Mrs. Johansen sighed. "I bought Kirsti some new shoes," she explained. "She's outgrown her old ones."
"Goodness, Kirsti," Ellen said, "I wish my mother would get me some new shoes. I love new things, and it's so hard to find them in the stores."
"Not if you go to a fish store!" Kirsti bellowed. "But most mothers wouldn't make their daughters wear ugly fish shoes!"
"Kirsten," Mama said soothingly, "you know it wasn't a fish store. And we were lucky to find shoes at all."
Kirsti sniffed. "Show them," she commanded. "Show Annemarie and Ellen how ugly they are."
Mama opened the package and took out a pair of little girl's shoes. She held them up, and Kirsti looked away in disgust.
"You know there's no leather anymore," Mama explained. "But they've found a way to make shoes out of fish skin. I don't think these are too ugly."
Annemarie and Ellen looked at the fish skin shoes. Annemarie took one in her hand and examined it. It was odd-looking; the fish scales were visible. But it was a shoe, and her sister needed shoes.
"It's not so bad, Kirsti," she said, lying a little.
Ellen turned the other one over in her hand. "You know," she said, "it's only the color that's ugly."
"Green!" Kirsti wailed. "I will never, ever wear green shoes!"
"In our apartment," Ellen told her, "my father has a jar of black, black ink. Would you like these shoes better if they were black?"
Kirsti frowned. "Maybe I would," she said, finally.
"Well, then," Ellen told her, "tonight, if your mama doesn't mind, I'll take the shoes home and ask my father to make them black for you, with his ink."
Mama laughed. "I think that would be a fine improvement. What do you think, Kirsti?"
Kirsti pondered. "Could he make them shiny?" she asked. "I want them shiny."
Ellen nodded. "I think he could. I think they'll be quite pretty, black and shiny."
Kirsti nodded. "All right, then," she said. "But you mustn't tell anyone that they're fish. I don't want anyone to know." She took her new shoes, holding them disdainfully, and put them on a chair. Then she looked with interest at the paper dolls.
"Can I play, too?" Kirsti asked. "Can I have a doll?" She squatted beside Annemarie and Ellen on the floor.
Sometimes, Annemarie thought, Kirsti was such a pest, always butting in. But the apartment was small. There was no other place for Kirsti to play. And if they told her to go away, Mama would scold.
"Here," Annemarie said, and handed her sister a cut-out little girl doll. "We're playing Gone With the Wind. Melanie and Scarlett are going to a ball. You can be Bonnie. She's Scarlett's daughter."
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com