Author: war on blondes PM
A Belgian opera singer comes to terms with her pain and hatred after the massacre of her village and family orchestrated by German soldiers. Set in WWI Europe.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Words: 2,289 - Published: 06-27-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3036697
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Sweat lay heavy on her skin, plastering her pincurls against her flushed nape. The theatre groaned as it burned, its occupants suffocating and chocking before the gates of hell. Ada moved slowly on hands and knees as the forces of gravity and her elaborately beaded gown and the world as she knew it pressed her closer and closer into the floorboards. The stained trench knife fastened against her thigh burned her flesh. Her hands and knees became bloodied as they scraped against the wood as she crawled. Her eyes stung as the smoke filling the old dressing room became unbearable. So close, her eyes fluttered shut for a moment in a silent prayer to an empty audience. So close.
The theatre creaked and sighed, giving itself to the flames beam by beam. Ghosts of old melodies played in Ada's mind as she dragged herself toward a jagged opening in the decrepit building. So close. With outstretched arms she clawed at the crumbling framework, nails and splinters tearing into her gown and wreaking havoc on her limbs. The silken handkerchief she had tied over her nose and lips snagged on an errant nail as she forced herself through the makeshift passageway. Ada reached for the knife, cutting herself free and gasping frantically as she fell into the cobbled street. Tucking herself against a cool stone wall, she felt her body begin to sag, her energy quickly depleting. Her heart beat desperately as she moved to the final stage of her futile clandestine mission. The theatre gasped its final breath into the winter air with finality, the fragrance of death perfuming the sleepy village. As she rounded the corner of the alleyway, Ada stilled. Metres away stood a looming man in a thick coat wit black fur trim. His dark green visor cap sat atop his matted brown hair, his breast gleaming with vigilance and power and honour. He halted her with his gaze, holding her still without a word. Her body shook in exhaustion and obstinacy and he roughly seized her arm, forcing her to stand upright. He paid no mind to the bloodied knife clasped in her hand, not threatened by her haggard state.
The lieutenant turned his back as he lead her, a more violent stab to her morale than she had yet been dealt. Maintaining his harsh grip on her forearm, he walked with a hastened pace to a covered truck outside the village square. He dropped her onto the road, her body fighting the desire to slump against the cool metal of the vehicle. She rose pridefully before him, a smirk forming beneath his mustache as he surveyed her frail condition. He opened his hand, palm up, and she deposited the knife. As if dismayed by the lack of rebellion, he frowned, inspecting the drying stains on the blade.
"Lift your dress."
Ada looked him in the eye, not daring to break contact as her bloodied fingers gripped the hem of her gown. She raised the material to her mid-thigh, revealing inch after inch of tattered stocking - a sanguine smear where she had grasped for the knife resting above the elastic. His hand waves, the amusement in his eyes thinly veiled. More. She lifted the gown above her hips and he motioned for her to twirl.
"Enjoying the show?" she asked hoarsely as she pivoted slowly before facing him once more.
"I was only wondering where you are hiding your luger."
"I am a soprano, not a soldier."
The lieutenant spun the knife in his fingers and Ada quieted at the darkening mood. He returned her gaze, the amusement gone from his eyes. A crackling from the truck's radio interrupted the muted interrogation. With the same arrogance, he left her to answer the radio. Ada shifted against the truck's side, attempting to correct her gown, a heavy weight below her décolletage pressing into her ribs. Her fingers reached to unzip her gown, relieving the heaviness against her chest. A boom of laughter sounded from the truck cab, causing her to jump. After the familiar click of a loading weapon, the lieutenant returned.
"No survivors," he reported, the barrel of his pistol lining up with a target between her temples. She moved quickly to stop him, her arm raising to return his fire. His eyes widened as he staggered backward, his body collapsing in agony. The lieutenant watched her in disbelief as she fell to the ground like an autumn leaf, her luger grasped delicately in her fingers.
They sat in the glow of lantern light in a room that smelled of smoke, perfume, and ink. She watched him lovingly, eyes trailing his every movement as he cut a cigar and lit it with the lighter she proffered. His free hand motioned for her to lean closer, gently pulling her onto the desk. As he ran his fingers through her hair, she leaned into his caress with a smile.
"Zigarre." he said.
"Cigar." she repeated.
"Ich liebe dich." he said.
"Why do we play this game?" she asked. "Your German is beautiful, you don't need my help."
"Yes, but your English is terrible!"
He laughed as her face flushed, her hands quickly moving to shuffle around papers to busy herself. Half-heartedly thumbing through the forged documents, she paused momentarily when she saw papers with her photograph. She looked up at him but he too was busy working and she knew why her face was on these papers. His face grew grim as he read the latest from the front. Are you alright? She wanted to ask but knew she shouldn't. There was nothing she could say, only smile and pour a drink. Smile and hold his lighter. Smile and pretend she was the pretty Danish girl on the passport.
"My performance is tomorrow." she said finally, placing the papers back down onto the desk. He looked up at her with a weary and drawn face. The lantern on the desk flickered, casting gentle shadows over his features. Her fingers reached out to touch his cheek but he turned away. She couldn't remember when he had began to look so old. Without him telling her, she knew. He didn't want her to go to the old theatre. He didn't want her to follow through with the plan she had spent so many nights perfecting. He abruptly stood, the chair legs scraping loudly across the floor. Rummaging through a cabinet, he pulled out a box and placed it on the desk beside her.
"Be careful." he said.
"I will." she said.
Ada opened the box, taking out the nine millimeter Luger. She admired the craftsmanship, turning it over in her palm. It was loaded, she discovered, her eyebrow raising in his direction. Yet, he had gone back to work, shifting through papers and penning in concise notations. The desk creaked as she lifted herself onto her feet, moving toward the door. Her heels clicked as she positioned herself in front of him, the pistol heavy in her petite hand. The next evening she would sing in front of nearly a hundred soldiers, she thought. Her hand shook, standing before him like she was. Would she be this nervous in front of an audience of murderers and mindless weapons? She wondered. Her arm rose mechanically, lining up neatly above his brow. She couldn't take any chances. Gently, she positioned her finger onto the trigger. He looked up at her, setting down his pen.
"Ich liebe dich." he said.
"I love you." she repeated.
Her neck was adorned in crystals and gold, her ears glittering as she moved in the light. The rationing had yet to reach this elegant realm, the land of fairy tales and gluttony. She hated whom she saw as she passed the great mirror adorning the opera house's foyer. A German woman of decadence and refinery, a renowned soprano of the operatic community. The deep blue gown rustled as she wound through the gaggle of wealthy war criminals and autocrats. With a hastened pace, the panic setting in through her bones, Ada fled to an ornate dressing room away from the suffocating crowd.
Rummaging desperately through the drawers, she tossed the contents haplessly onto the floor. They fell one by one in hurried procession. Perfumes, powders, trinkets, hairpins. The luxurious waste sparkled under the small crystal chandelier above her. War-time sacrifices, she thought, throwing off her diamond cuff. Ada crumbled onto the persian rug in a heap of jewels, silks, and misery. A single black ribbon glimmering proudly atop the debris caught her eye. She tentatively handled the ribbon, so long and glossy. Her eyes traveled once more toward the chandelier, shimmering with a new hopelessness.
If only she had never left Tamines, she thought as she moved the golden upholstered arm chair to the center of the room. Slipping off her shoes before lifting her dress, she stepped up onto the cushion. She no longer wanted to be a star, no longer wanted the shallow love and adoration she had found in berlin. Her mother and father had been so understanding, had assured her she had such a lovely voice. They had told her berlin would love her as much as the small congregation that gather before père donnet. Ada realized it didn't really matter now, as the Germans had burned the church and killed père donnet. She tortured herself, imagining what her family had felt when the Germans came to Tamines. Her house had been burned and her brother had been shot. The soldiers had trapped her parents in their home as they set it aflame. She wiped a tear from her eye, she had no right to cry. She crucified herself with the guilt, as if she herself had lit the match or pulled the trigger.
Her slender fingers fastened the ribbon around the chandelier fixture, securing it with a tug. She made a loop, draping it over her hair and tightening it around her neck. The door opened slowly, revealing a shocked young man. They looked at each other for a long moment before Ada swayed and kicked back the chair. The man quickly took out a trench knife from his tuxedo jacket, grabbing her around the waist and cutting her down. Her gasps were drowned out by the loud trickling of the chandelier's crystals. She clawed at the man, wriggling in his grasp.
"What did you do?" she asked him desperately.
"I stopped you from a stupid mistake." he told her in a strange accent she couldn't quite place. He set her down and she had the decency to approach him with caution. The stranger was certainly not German, nor could he be Belgian. She eyed him wearily as he leaned the chair she had knocked over against the door to lock it.
"Parlez-vous français?" she guessed.
"Hold out your hand." he said.
She hesitantly offered him her hand, shocked as he gave her the trench knife. It felt cool against her skin, the blade surprisingly clean.
"I'm British." he told her. "You're going to kill yourself anyway so why not tell you?" he laughed gently, patting her on the shoulder. Her eyes widened at his proclamation. An English man. She wondered what kind of man he was, that would stop her from hanging herself only to hand her a knife. Ada lowered her eyes, angry for failing to accomplish such a simple task. There was so little to live for, her passions exhausted and her loved ones gone. She felt an aching void where once there had been precious memories. Filling the void, she could feel the seeds of hatred crawling through. The English man gave her his hand, offering to take her away, and she followed him.
She sat in between her mother's legs, her tiny body nestled comfortably as her mother braided her hair. The church bells chimed in the distance, causing Ada to stir. Her mother calmed her, gently stroking her back. Quietly, her mother sang to her as she tied a ribbon neatly in her hair. The little girl leaned into her mother's touch, all anxieties forgotten. The older woman pulled a dark blue dress over her daughter's head, adjusting the sash at the back in a neat bow. Her mother held out her hand and Ada grabbed it, letting her mother lead her outside.
"Come on, liebling. It's time for church." her mother smiled.
Ada skipped toward her father and brother, her mother patiently following along. The church bells chimed once more as the family walked toward the church. Tamines slowly awoke, its inhabitants migrating toward the great sprawling church. Ada stared in wonder at the gathering crowd, her mother gently keeping her from wandering off with a guiding tug here and there. The family Müller walked into the church doors hand in hand. Mr. Müller greeted his colleagues and Mrs. Müller pleasantly smiled at the other mothers. The children ran off to join the choir, chanting Père Donnet's name. The priest held out his arms for the children: they rushed for him, another child easily pushing Ada away. Père Donnet reached for her, patting her on the head.
"Are you ready to sing today, Ada?" Père Donnet asked.
"Yes, Père Donnet!" she nodded emphatically.
The children filed into the wooden risers, Ada gleefully standing in the center. They began to sing, filling the congregation with melodious hymns. Ada sought out her mother and father, smiling at her from the pews. She smiled back as she sang. One day, she promised herself, she would be a great star that everyone could admire.