Christina Steiner jerked awake; the barking dogs in her dream still echoing in her head. The sun had yet to rise over the cold German morning, but the clock on the dresser showed six in the morning. She ran her hands through her honey-blonde hair and rolled on her side.
"Rachel," she whispered, gently shaking her lover's shoulder. "Rachel, time to wake up."
Rachel's bright blue eyes fluttered open, and she inched closer to Christina. "Why so early? Isn't it Franz's day off? No one's going to catch us."
"It is, but I would rather not push our luck. Meminger is already on to us."
"But I don't want to get up. It's so cold out." She cuddled up to Christina, trying to hold her down and keep warm at the same time. It was only the beginning of November, but it was an exceptionally chilly winter.
"Come on," Christina persisted, "I will make breakfast. And clean the dishes."
"And you'll also help me with the groceries."
Quickly, they sprang from the bed and dressed. The cold room told Christina that Franz had decided to sleep in, and the fire in the furnace had long since died. Swearing under her breath, she pulled her overcoat around her and went outside for wood. Orange rays of sun had just started to creep over the snowdrifts, and Christina could hear the Nazi guards screaming at the Jews in Buchenwald. Sighing at the typical morning, she snatched up an armful of wood and went back into the house.
"Did I hear you were cooking this morning?" A warm, smooth voice asked when Christina opened the door.
"Who told you that, brother?" Christina asked, dropping the wood by the pot-bellied stove and hastily starting a fire. She moved over to the actual cooking stove and pulled a pan from the cupboard above.
"A little bird," the man said. Rachel smacked him lightly and sat across from him at the table. Christina searched the nearly barren pantry, decided on pancakes, and whipped up a batter. The operators of Buchenwald, the Kochs, had generously allowed them another flour ration.
"Are you off today?" Christina continued, grabbing a spatula.
"Yes, but I also know that you agreed to help with the shopping."
"That was not what I wanted to know, but you answered my initial question. Eat."
Christina shoved a plate of pancakes between his hands, and did the same for Rachel a few minutes later. "Is there anything left in the shops?"
"There should be. All the trains and trucks have gotten through."
"Alright. Come, Rachel, let's go before everyone else decides they are also out of food."
Rachel hurriedly grabbed her snow boots and chased Christina out the door. "Slow down, Jessie Owens."
Christina laughed and stopped at the top of the hill. Jessie Owens' victory at the Olympics had been a small victory for them as well. Anything to make Adolf Hitler insecure was a victory. They linked arms and went into town.
"Okay," Christina said with a commanding tone, "no children. That was the fifth one to nearly knock me over."
A minute earlier, a little blonde boy had slammed into Christina's knees, chasing after a soccer ball.
"It was an accident," Rachel countered. "He's only four feet tall and focused elsewhere. For all he knew, you were his bigger brother."
"It's unlikely that his bigger brother would be wearing a dress."
"Your turn." Rachel handed Christina a bulging shopping bag. Christina checked over her shoulder once they cleared the hill and softly kissed Rachel. "I'm going to miss you."
"Remind me again why you have to go to the Alps?"
"It was my father's idea. You're forgetting that I'm not an adult just yet."
"You are eighteen. Only two years younger than me."
"Still, I don't live alone."
"True. You live with me and Franz most days. Wait one minute, and I'll walk you home." Christina ducked into the house to put the groceries in the kitchen, and returned to Rachel's side. Neither of them said anything for a few minutes, they were more focused on hiking through the knee-deep snow covering the road between their homes.
"I have to ask you something," Christina said, stopping in the middle of the road. "I'm not expecting an answer right now, but hopefully I can have one sometime in the near future. I--"
Christina's speech was cut off by one, shrill yell. Both women turned to look, and saw a group of men in grey-green uniforms, flanked by six dogs. Christina snared Rachel's hand and took off at a full blown run for their lives.
"Do not stop," Christina gasped, dodging trees, "even if we get separated, keep running!"
They had to drop each other's hands to keep going. Christina knew they wouldn't be able to outrun the SS men.
"Double back," Christina yelled, this time in French to confuse the guards. It took Rachel a moment, but eventually both women changed directions, heading towards Christina's house. They could see the faint outline of the woodpile a few yards away, but the barking dogs grew louder. Christina felt a stick collide with the back of her head, and fell to the snow.