"Chanah! Shifra! Rachel! Stay with me!" Mama yells, gripping her shoulders and her sisters'. "Don't stray! Aliza!"
"Chanahleh-" Oma Aliza is cut off by a German soldier.
"Schnell! Schnell! Down on the ground!"
Chanah gets to her knees before laying on the dirt, legs flat out and still as a board. She doesn't want to die. She has to protect Shifra, Rachel and her mother, father and her grandmother. She notices Rachel still on her knees, and she yanks her sister's arm down, making the small girl fall face first onto the ground with a loud thump.
"Stay down, Rachel," she commands in a fierce whisper. "Don't move, and do as you're told." Shifra whimpers from beside Mama.
"Quiet!" the soldier shouts, and he kicks Chanah's leg with his steel-toed boot, sending a burst of pain through her. She bites her lip to keep from crying out.
Papa, who lays on the other side of Chanah, gives her a warning look, and she immediately flushes with shame.
"What are they doing, Mama?" Rachel asks.
"Counting to see how many of us there are," Mama whispers to her, and Chanah shudders.
"Get up! Get up! Men on the right, women on the left! Form lines! You, Jew!"
Chanah sees the soldier pointing to a woman carrying both a daughter and a son.
"He-" The soldier rips the son from her arms, "-is over here. Women to the left, men to the right! Hurry, Jews! Schnell!"
Papa is gripped by the ear of another soldier, and Chanah tries to catch his sleeve before Oma Aliza pulls her back.
"Stay, Chanah. He is a strong man, and He will be merciful. Your father is in His hands now. Loving hands, He has. Stay strong, Chanahleh." Oma Aliza looks sure that Papa will be all right. Chanah tries to feel the same.
"Women to the left! Schnell!"
"Rachel! Shifra!" Chanah gasps as the line starts moving forward, and the men's line is out of sight. "Papa!"
"Chanahleh, quiet!" Mama says angrily. "Stay quiet. Shifra, Rachel, hurry along. Come, Aliza, Chanah."
Behind her, a bunch of people start screaming, and the line stops, making Chanah walk straight into Rachel. She turns around quickly, wondering what's going on.
"Oma!" Rachel cries, and Chanah watches in horror as Oma Aliza is taken to another line.
"Anyone above the age of fifty to the left! Schnell!"
"Oma! Oma!" Rachel screams, and Chanah pinches her arm.
"Hush! You'll only bring attention to yourself! You want to stay hidden here!" Chanah says, trying to stay strong for Oma Aliza.
"Where are they taking Oma?" Rachel asks, sobbing. "Mama!"
Mama pulls Rachel and Shifra closer, and Chanah feels utterly alone, even though she's right next to them.
"Move! Move, now!"
"No! Oma! Oma! Papa!" Rachel's screams are almost unbearable for Chanah to hear. "Papa!"
Chanah's vision starts turning black as Rachel's screams drone out the world around her.
"Chanah! Chanah, wake up!"
She opens her eyes to see Shifra standing above her, her big blue eyes worried.
"Did you have another nightmare?" asks Shifra, backing away from the bed to let Chanah get up. "Was it the screaming again?"
Chanah nods, her head low. She always has the same nightmare. It is always the screaming. Of all the horrible things that she had been through with her two sisters at the camp, the screaming is the worst. She can handle physical pain. But Rachel's screams. No six year old should've had to go through that. Shifra and Rachel, both six at the time, deserved more. They still deserve more.
Out of the three of them, Shifra got out with the least amount of scars. Shifra's policy was to try to forget. So she immerses herself in American life. Granted, they just arrived in America only a few weeks ago, but Shifra is more American than Chanah can ever dream to be.
Chanah is only a little worse in her condition after the camp than Shifra. She still suffers from nightmares most nights, but it was a small price to pay. After all, she is the lucky one, she and Shifra, compared to their youngest sister, Rachel.
Rachel had been the most pampered in the family before the camp. She was given anything she wanted, and had no bad dreams at night. She was a good Jewish girl, still to this day. But she was insane. Chanah will never forgive herself for this. Rachel wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, and she can't have an actual conversation. She had been fine until she saw Mama and Papa die.
Chanah wishes that she could've covered Rachel's eyes. But at the time, she was too busy holding Shifra and Rachel close to her, trying not to cry. She had been the oldest. She was the last one left for them, since Oma Aliza went up in flames. She still is the only one left to take care of Shifra and Rachel.
But she doesn't think she's doing a very good job of taking care of them. After all, they could've all stayed in England, in Europe, instead of coming to America. But this is better. They are farther away from all the bad memories.
"Oh Chanah," Shifra sighs, sounding much older than her age. That is also something Chanah will never forgive herself for.
"I'm all right. I promise. Now, let's get some breakfast together, yes? I have a busy day ahead of me," says Chanah, smiling slightly as she and Shifra go down the old, creaky stairs of their new but old home.
"What are you doing today?" asks Shifra.
"I'm applying for a job," Chanah replies. "We can't rely on Aunt Batya and Uncle Abraham's fortune forever. We need to save it. If I can't earn enough, you might have to find work too."
"Oh," Shifra says, and Chanah pats her sister's arm reassuringly.
"Don't worry. This is America. I'm sure I'll be able to pay for this alone."
"What does this being America have anything to do with it?" asks Shifra curiously.
"They have a good economy, and they pay more here," Chanah says. "And more jobs. And no more Germans saying that Jews shouldn't have jobs, because there are Jewish Americans here. We are free, Shifraleh."
Shifra smiles. "I told you it was a good idea to come here."
"Yes, you did tell me that," says Chanah. "There's only one more problem, though. One major problem. If only all our problems were solved when we came here."
"What's the problem?" Shifra tilts her head, wondering.
Chanah sighs. "Rachelleh."
"There's nothing wrong with Rachel," Shifra protests, but stops when Chanah glares at her.
"Yes, there is. We need to find a doctor, or someone that can help her. If we don't, I have no choice but to institutionalize her."
"No!" Shifra cries. "You can't, Chanah!"
"You listen, Shifra," Chanah says, her eyes hard and her voice cold. She hates to have to tell it to Shifra this way, but she has no choice. When does she ever have choices? "This isn't healthy for Rachel. I know you think that keeping Rachel here is what's best, but I'm the adult here now. I may be your sister, but I am twenty one, and I am yours and Rachel's legal guardian. I cannot let Rachel sit here and waste away, praying to someone who doesn't exist."
"Chanah!" Shifra looks scandalized. "You don't believe in Him?"
Chanah nods yes reluctantly. She didn't want anyone else to know that she stopped believing as soon as she saw Mama and Papa die. Actually, it was when Rachel screamed for Oma Aliza and Papa. When she felt utterly alone, she should've felt comforted by His presence. But she hadn't at all.
"I'm sorry, Shifra," says Chanah.
Shifra shakes her head, sniffling. "It's all right. I think I may be going in the same direction as well."
Chanah brings Shifra into a hug, and they stay that way for a minute before Chanah speaks.
"You'll be fine, Shifraleh," she says, stroking her sister's dark hair. "We have each other."
"And Rachel," Shifra says out of loyalty, but both know that their sister has been gone for a long time.
"I'm afraid they aren't here right now. Their son just came back from Germany. He's a soldier, you know," one of the waitresses says to Chanah. "But I'm sure they'll be here tomorrow. If I can have your name, I'll write it down and give it to them tomorrow."
"Chanah Rosen," she sighs as the waitress writes her name down.
"You have an interesting name," the waitress says, looking up. "Where are you from?"
"Germany," Chanah says, hoping that the waitress won't ask any more questions. When the waitress opens her mouth, Chanah immediately answers, "Yes, I'm Jewish, and yes, I was put in a concentration camp. Any more questions?"
The waitress looks taken aback, and Chanah immediately feels guilty.
"I'm sorry," says Chanah, her head low. "I shouldn't have-"
"You have every right to have done that," the waitress says, looking sympathetic. "Actually, I'll just tell you their address. Won't want to keep you waiting. I'll call them first and tell them you're coming."
The waitress quickly walks over to the phone and talks in hushed tones before coming back.
"Their address is 21 Lily Lane," the waitress says.
"Thank you, Miss," Chanah says.
"I'm Janice," the waitress says, and Chanah gives her a small smile.
"Thank you, Janice," she says, and Janice gives one last wave before Chanah leaves the diner. She starts walking towards Lily Lane, which is only a couples minutes away from their house on Shady Lane.
She walks on the sidewalk, avoiding the children who are playing outside, and not meeting the eyes of the parents who are watching her. When she finally gets to 21 Lily Lane, she feels more watched than she did in the camp.
She knocks on the door, suddenly hoping that no one would answer. She is so nervous that she feels she might just throw up. Luckily, before she can do that, an elderly woman with a friendly smile opens the door.
"Hello," the woman says.
"Uh, gute- I mean, hello," Chanah says awkwardly. She was about to say "guten tag."
"Are you Miss Rosen?" the woman asks, and Chanah nods. The woman's face lights up. "Oh, come in, come in! We were just wondering if you were coming! By the way, I'm Carol Knight."
"Hello, Mrs. Knight," Chanah says, smiling politely at her as she walked into the small, tidy house.
"You can just call me Carol, dear," Carol says, and she gestures to the couch. "Sit down, please. I'll go get some lemonade."
Chanah realizes how hot it is, and she's thankful for the drink. She knows that it gets hot in America around May. Her eyes widen. It's May! She needs to register Shifra into the local school before June. Shifra has never gone to a regular school with children and teachers and playgrounds. Only Chanah had experienced that. Rachel couldn't experience it. So it was all up to Shifra.
"Do you like pink lemonade?" Carol asks as she sits down beside Chanah.
The truth is that Chanah has never had pink lemonade, but she nods yes anyway. She is glad. She has never tasted anything that tastes as good as pink lemonade. She drinks half of the glass right there, and Carol laughs.
"It looks like you do," she says, smiling. "Now, how-"
"William Knight, you sly dog!" a booming voice jests from outside. "Corporal Knight! Why didn't you say anything in your letters?"
"Oh, don't mind them," Carol says, an amused smile on her face. "My husband is ecstatic that our son, William, is home and can play baseball with him again."
Chanah nods, and just when Carol is about to talk, a big man, most likely Mr. Knight, walks in, with a young man whose eyes look solemn but has a smile on his face to please his father. And as soon as their eyes meet, she gasps.
"Miss Rosen?" he asks, and she nearly faints at the memory of him. He was one of the soldiers that came and liberated her camp. He saved her. He brought her, Shifra and Rachel to the truck that took them to their freedom. He had asked for her name, and she told him just Rosen.
"Corporal," she says breathlessly, her eyes glued to him.
He takes her hand and brings it to his lips like a gentleman before giving her a small smile. "May I have the honor of knowing your first name, Miss Rosen?"
"Chanah," she says, still staring at him in amazement. "My name is Chanah."