Redemption Story - William W. Smith
Her weathered hands moved slowly over the surface of the wooden table leaving smudge marks, breaking the reflection of Edeltraut's face on the polished table top. She continued to place her hands on the tops of desks, chairs, cabinets, and window panes, but travelled alone in cold silence, keeping to herself and not wanting to say a word. Her long gray hair left falling to her hips, waved and aged, would dangle from side to side in an arithmetic sort of fashion.
"Edeltraut you remember Grandpa, ya?" Her old voice scored from the surfaces of the many hoardered objects."Just barely" Edeltraut replied, half occupied by the phone in her one hand and the golden ornament she found lying underneath a blanket and pile of dust in the other. She moved the ornament back and forth in her hand watching the light hit parts of the object and shine with a tarnished brilliance.
"Edeltraut, do you pay attention or just fiddle with any sort of rubbish you pick and play with?"
"Ya, ya, Grandma I know, why am I even here? Didn't you hate William's guts or something? This is boring going over some dead man's riffraff." Edeltraut crosses her arms indignantly and turns to the window.
"Young lady, I may not be your mother, but I am your mother's mother and you well do pay with some respect."
"Why? I didn't offend you, just the old fart lying in his grave a few blocks down from here."
The old woman lets out a hollow sigh. "You know Edel this house has been in the family for over a hundred years and survived both wars. Our family has survived both wars."
"So, William survived the war, but he was a complete mess. The little I saw him was enough. He was a messed old man who couldn't keep his liquor down and kept his hand raised. I'm happy he's six feet under." Edeltraut turns her head towards Grandma and smiles mockingly.
"Herr Wilhelm Walter Schaffer was the man I married two years before the Second World War. William W. Smith wasn't. I took you back to Germany to see your heritage even if you're not proud of whom you are Edeltraut. I wanted to show you Grandpa William wasn't always the way he was."
"Whatever, I'm going to call mom and leave; this was a stupid trip for nothing."
"Edeltraut!" The old woman called out.
"What is it now? Leave me alone with your redemptive crap about William. I don't need to hear it. He's dead and he'll stay dead." Edeltraut remarked coolly.
"You're only a little girl, you barely seen the world and you know nothing about how it works! Look out those windows, now." The old woman pointed a weathered finger towards the windows facing onto the Pariser Platz, the downtown area of Berlin. "This city was razed you hear me, razed. The sky was on fire and constantly you could hear bombs landing right over our heads. We were stuck in bunkers for nights on end and when we came out; all that was left was burning cars and burnt out buildings. Edeltraut I'm asking you politely to just try to understand what happened after the war. William lost everything in that war, but this house. Imagine coming home from a battle you lost and then your homeland is turned against you and replaced with a Communist government. You couldn't get help, the soldiers were left to fend on their own."
Edeltraut stretched her arms over her head and yawned. She put the golden ornament in her pocket and checked her phone as in buzzed in her jacket pocket.
"I see you have no interest or respect in who you are, so I'm just going to leave you be. Oh, and Edeltraut please lock the door after you. Good bye." The old woman added. The slight noise of the door falling back into its frame echoed with finality. There left in the in the window's shadow was Edeltraut. She looked around the room feeling empty and reserved. Maybe she went a little too far this time. She found a spot by the window and picked up a pile of old books. As one of the books fell down it opened to a page filled with yellowed paper and black and white photos. Edeltraut bent down to pick up the book, but one face stood out. Her Grandma's face; young, and happy, and arms wrapped around a young man; his face joyous and clearly in love with the girl. Edeltraut stares at the photo and turns her view to the photo below as the two hold hands walking down a road with many people around them and another photo, this time Edeltraut's Grandma dressed in a one-piece bathing suit and the young man in a pair of trunks, make their way to a lake with many other people their age.
Edeltraut changes the page and a piece of paper falls onto her lap. It's a photo of the two embracing, her Grandma in white and -now she knew - her Grandfather in black. It was their wedding day and inscribed on the photo in a faded silver marker said: "Um die schönste Frau weiß ich, meine beste Freundin und Ehefrau." Which meant: "To the most beautiful woman I know, my best friend and wife." Edeltraut didn't know how she read the message on the paper, for she hasn't even learned German, but she knew what it meant. She knew what she had to do.
She locked the door behind her and made her way down the twisting staircase to the ground floor, and ran out the front doors onto the cobble stone side walk, and continued down the back alleys, and ran till she made her way to the small graveyard. Around the perimeter was an old black wrought iron fence and as Edeltraut walked through the black gates she knew exactly were to go. Past a bunch of trees and around a corner of stand-up gravestones laid a long white tombstone.
On it read William W. Smith, and that's how Edeltraut knew him, by that fake name and fake personality. Edeltraut didn't know how the world worked, but she knew what it meant to exist and without this man she wouldn't have. She sat in front of the stone and placed the photo on the ground and bowed her head. He was like her once, years ago he was her age, he was once in love, and he fought in a war he didn't believe in and it changed him into a man he wouldn't have wanted to be. Maybe I should get to know him. Edeltraut thought. Maybe I should say sorry, I should say thank you.