Only The Coat

Europe, 1943

I walk slowly, so as not to draw attention to myself. I can smell the sea in the air, and know that I am very close to my destination. Although close, it still seems far. Not for the first time today I mourn the loss of my mother's presence. She is not dead, or at least I hope she isn't. No, instead, we have been separated by accident, so I make my way to the pier on my own.

It is a terrifying walk for me.

"Stop!" a man shouts.

I stop in the middle of the road where I was crossing. Someone grabs my coat from behind at the base of my neck and hauls me forcefully to the sidewalk. He is not gentle when he releases me, allowing me to fall to the ground. I get back up, turn around, and then step back so I can see him better. I am not very tall.

He is a police officer. While not as bad as the soldiers of the Third Reich, he still has the power to turn me in. My heart begins to hammer as he looks down at me, scanning me without doubt.

"What are you doing?" he demands.

"Looking for my mother, sir," I answer with complete honesty. He can tell that I am speaking the truth because my mother is nowhere in sight.

He frowns, and then looks me over again, like he's looking for something specific. "When did you last see her?" he finally asks, looking down at me again. "How long ago?"

"I don't remember, sir," I answer. "I thought I was following her but it turned out I was following someone else."

He is quiet, and while he is thinking, I hear the cry of seagulls from the sea. Their crying reminds me how close I am to my destination, and I privately wish for the officer to leave. "Where did you last see your mother?" he asks, breaking the silence that had been hanging between us.

"I don't remember, sir," I repeat. "I am sorry, sir, but I was staring at the sidewalk so I wouldn't trip while walking."

"Fine," he says, checking me over one more time. "Remove your coat."

My heart starts beating double-time. "But it's January, sir," I remind him. "My mother doesn't want me removing my coat outside in the winter." I stare pointedly at the snow all around us.

"Fine," he answers. "Then come back to the station with me and wait for your mother there."

Mother wouldn't dare go near the station but the officer doesn't know that. I pretend to look around him. "Oh, look! That's her!" I say with feigned excitement. I turn back to him and say, "Thank you, sir!" With these departing words, I quickly walk away.

Surprisingly, the officer does not follow.

My secret isn't well hidden. Only my coat conceals the mark that has been stitched onto the front of my dress. The Star of David is a symbol of great faith, but now is one of great shame.