Title: Folgen Sie in Seinen Schritten
Note: Follow in his step.
Eseld slipped away from the house, filled with strange men with saws, tearing down her childhood home. Selling off, bits by bits, the house of a notorious doctor in the Nazi Regime. She slipped away as silent as a fox sneaking away from the hen house, touching her mouth as if to check to make sure no feathers escaped her lips.
The old cobblestone street was still pockmarked from when she was younger. In her mind, she could hear the bombers roaring, the bombs whistling, the ground shaking. With calm hands, she ran her pale fingers through her hair and stepped into the first coffee shop she came to. The old man, with hair that had once been thick and gold now turned white and thin, stared at her with a soft smile. He knew her father. "Hallo Eseld." She smiled at him softly and gave a gentle wave. "Hallo Jorge."
She took a seat in the window and brushed dust off her shoulders. Jorge brought her coffee, without being asked. He remembered from her father. She smiled up at him, even as she tugged her cuffs down to cover the vibrant little red spot on the base of her thumb. She glanced around the small shop, filled with the lingering scents of spiced cigars and older men fresh from a shave, talking in low, hoarse whispers of the world.
Eseld picked up the cup, her father's cup, and sipped the rich, bitter coffee. Strands of blonde hair fell to cover most of her face. A tourist, an American at that, walked up to her and smiled softly. "Hallo," he trilled, his tongue tripping over the harsher language. Hearing him speak her tongue was nails on a chalkboard, and internally she flinched. "Ja," she asked, an impatience to her voice, making the soft tone harsh and unfriendly. "Können Sie mir helfen?" Eseld flinched as his tongue continued to trip over the language. "Mit?" The American drew a blank, pulled back and hurriedly flipped through a pocket-sized English-German dictionary.
She let out a disguisted sigh, "Dumme Amerikaner." The man glanced up at her, his brow furrowed. She knew that even someone who spoke no German would understand. The man snapped his book shut and stomped away. Eseld dipped her head and stared into the ceramic cup, down into the dark blackness of the coffee.
The tiny bell over the glass door tinged and left her alone in the small shop, with just the cluster of white-haired men in the corner and Jorge. She remembered this place, back when the War was still happening, back when she was younger. Glancing up, she saw sepia was seeping from the walls and pooling on the floor.
Father turns his head, smiling that soft smile. His pale eyes crinkle at the corners. "Eseld." Unable to help myself, I fling my arms around his neck and hug him close. "Vater."
Outside, among the footsteps of a country, the heart of Germany beats.
He pulls me close, holding my head against his neck. We seek comfort for all the bad times. He pulls away, taking my hand in his worn-rough hand and pulls me through the shop. Past men talking of the war, the world and women sitting on stools in flowered dresses and flats. The place smells like spice and coffee...like home.
We sit in a window, watching the world skip merrily past.
We ignore the distant roar of B52s, and he takes my hand over the tabletop. "So Tochter, erklären mir Lebens." My fingers tighten around his. "Leben ist gut, aber leer. Ich verfehle viel..." He smiles at me again, as Jorge comes over and places coffee in front of us. He dips his head, strands of thick blonde hair fluttering out of place, "Auf dem Haus."
Glancing about, I see soldiers and officers mingling. Those are the men I grew up with, the men I always admired, wanted to marry.
Father clenches his fingers around mine, following my gaze and smiling at me. "Gibt es irgendwelche jungen Männer, die ich von kennen sollte?" I blush softly and think of all the young soldiers I care for back in the hospital, under Father's not so watchful eye. "Oh kein Vater, selbstverständlich nicht." I pull my fingers loose and grip at my coffee; the hot ceramic cup burns my palms slightly, leaving a gentle tingle. "Ich bin nur 18 und der ist viel zu jung, an Liebe sogar zu denken." Father smiles again, soft and easy before taking a long, heavy sip of his coffee. "Das ist gut," and while he doesn't specify, I know he is talking about my loveless life rather than the coffee.
My eyes dance over at the soft tinkle as the door opens. I remember that young soldier from the hospital; I remember the scar that curves along his chest from a bayonet. He smiles at me softly, his dark blue eyes twitching up at the corners and producing wrinkles in his young face. He lifts his bandaged hand and runs his bruised fingers through his white blonde hair.
Father twists his head and gives the young soldier a look I can only imagine, and the boy ducks his head, moving away warily.
There are many stories about Father circulating about the military ranks; most of them, though terrible and terrifying, are true."Ein Soldat von Krankenhaus?" I slowly nod my head, staring down into my coffee. "Ja Vater, einfach ein Soldat." I sip at my coffee and stare out the window, watching the caravan of military BWMs trail down the street. Red flags wave blithely in passing.
Her phone went off in her coat, trilling within the deep woolen pockets of the greatcoat, calling her back from the past. In a public place, she simply slid the cover of the thin phone up. "Ja?" A beat, a breath on the other line, and then a tentative voice stammered into her ear. "Es gibt ein Problem…"
Slowly to keep from drawing attention to herself, Eseld stood up from the table, placing Duetsche Marks on the tabletop. "Nr. 8 fehlt." She downed the remains of her coffee and placed the cup back on the table harder than necessary, calling Jorge's attention. Eseld flashed him a smile and strolled to the door with a backwards wave. "Verriegeln Sie die Türen. Jetzt. Benutzen Sie die Hunde." She snipped the phone shut and returned it to its pocket.
The bell tinkled blithely above her head, even as the door slammed behind her.
Her footsteps staccatoed off the pockmarked street as she stalked toward the crouched, sleek body of the Morgan, the black paint glossy like oil in the sunlight. As she pulled open the door, she muttered "Verdammen Sie es aller zur blutigen Hölle" under her breath, slipped into the sports car and clipped the door shut. She slipped off her shoes, gave the ignition a tender turn and downshifted. The Morgan slipped forward, the engine growling as she stepped on the gas and cut through the narrow backstreets toward the compound.