A/N: Thanks to everyone who reviewed and so sorry for the long wait. I hope you enjoy this chapter. Hopefully I will update again with less of a wait.
I could hear her laughing as they left his study. Her name was Hilde. She was the daughter of one of Jens' friends, a lawyer I think. I had never asked not even after, and I tried not to listen to the conversation he had with his friends. I had not been allowed to leave the floor for months now. It felt like months, maybe longer, maybe only a few weeks. Days upon days laying in my coffin, only allowed out a few minutes every day to stretch my legs and eat down some bread, use the bathroom. Not only did my body always hurt but it was boring and days stretched on. Even when I was taken from underneath the floor I could not see outside, as the drapes were pulled tight and the windows were closed. I did not know if it was warm out, cold, night, day. Sometimes I could keep track. I ate and he left. I ate and his friends came over. That meant breakfast and dinner. But to keep track of the days… and then I would become so bored, put in such a daze, that I did not remember if Jens was coming or going.
He did not speak to me during these times. Once, only one time, while I was eating, he reached out and touched my cheek, gazing at my longingly, not just lust in his eyes but something else. I did not dwell on it. I was too angry with him. I knew why. I think I did. He needed to have friends over because people had become suspicious. He had been 'too kind' to Jews in the past. He bought the market and I was never found. There were rumors. That was what Karl Baumann had told him once after too much Brandy. 'Search my house! No Judenscheisse here,' Jens had responded and everyone laughed. I had closed my eyes underneath the floorboards and felt hot tears roll down the sides of my temples.
Hilde was always talking to Jens. It started out as simple conversation. She would sit by him in the living room, at least that was how it sounded. She would bring him special gifts she thought he might like. She mentioned she loved music and heard he had a fine collection. That was when my first violent flare of anger for her sprang up. It was not even the horrid things she said about Jews. It wasn't that she hoped Jews would be erased from the face of the earth, it wasn't that she thought Germany, my home, the country I loved and do love today, was better off having us all gone, never to return. I was used to hearing that. They all said it. It pained me, but I was growing numb to it. No, I hated her because she could dance with Jens and I could not. I hated her because Jens wanted to dance with her now, and never asked me anymore. He had not even kissed me in months.
When he first sat me down to tell me I had to get back underneath the floorboards he had kissed me. It had been soft and gentle, I could feel his longing and I returned his kiss, tears in my eyes, hands on his shirt. But since then I had not felt his lips to mine. I had not felt his hands on me. I had not swayed in his arms as he lead me around to the music. She had though. The first time she came over a lone they had gone to his study. I thought I knew what was happening, but when they left it seemed they had not. She was not like those other girls. She was the type of girl you would marry.
"You dance so well," she had said and Jens thanked her softly, sounding as pleased with her as she was with him. It had ripped my heart in two. The feeling amazed me. It had happened before. I had felt this type of nagging pain. But this was different. It tore my insides out, it brought tears to my eyes, it had my face crinkling. I remembered the feel of his hand son me, his lips, his breath mingling with mine, and now it was gone, gone to this woman and I hated her. I have told myself so many times as I laid in my coffin that I hated her, that the word hate began to lose its meaning. Hate, did not begin to describe what I felt for her. It seemed numb, faded, incomplete.
I listened to them laugh as they left his study tonight. I imagined them arm in arm, slightly red cheeked from the alcohol, smiles on their faces, affection shining in Jen's eyes, affection I had thought was reserved for me. Tears once more came to my eyes as I listened, ears waiting intently, listening. There were simple goodbyes, a pause I was certain was a kiss, and the front door shut. I listened to his footsteps above me. He always seemed to come into the living room when everyone left, right before he went to bed. He'd walk in circles a few minutes, pace back and forth, and then leave without a word. He would never say anything, not even a good night. The next time I would see him he would be letting me out in the morning to bend my knees and arms, wiggle my hips, walk a little, eat, use the bathroom, and then back into my coffin. Only once did he ever tell me I was lucky I could get out that often.
I listened to him this time. His footsteps moving around the coffee table that rested directly above me. I waited a few minutes, the pain in my chest unabated, and listened as his footsteps began to fade away. I did not think anyone was in the house, but I know I still should not have done it. It was an unnecessary and selfish risk, but in that moment I did not care.
"Good night," I called softly and waited. My heart thundered. His footsteps stopped and there was silence, only the sound of my own pulse thudding. I swallowed and then his footsteps started up again. He walked away out of the room, and I was left in the darkness and the silence, hearing her laugh play over and over again in my ears. I remembered kissing him, feeling his hands, but then it was suddenly her in my musings. He was kissing her in his study, running his hands over her body. She was faceless, almost formless in my mind. It is difficult to explain what I saw as I imagined it, but it was no less painful.
The next day he let me out of my coffin. I sat up, got out by myself, as he walked away and into the kitchen as I stretched. He came back with my food and handed it to me. I ate it quickly, glancing up at him as he sat on the couch, looking at his hands. She finished and put the plate on the table, jumping down into the removed floorboards.
"You can have a few more minutes, Elsa," he said softly, still looking at his hands.
"You dance with her," I said, still standing in my coffin. He looked up at him, face stern, but not angry. He said nothing and I sat down, sliding my legs underneath the floor, fixing my skirt out so it was straight and laid back down. I waited for him to close it up but he only stared down at his hands a little while longer. Finally he got down to his knees and reached for the floorboards that he could cover me with. I stopped him by reaching up and touching his chest as he leaned over. He paused, looking down at me, and I sat up, pulling him toward me, placing my mouth to his.
I pulled back when he sat their stiffly and I felt my heart break and my lower lip tremble. I should have let him have me when he wanted me. He might not keep me locked up so much now. He might not be in love with Hilde. I felt another wave of hate for her. I nodded slowly, eyes wet and laid back down, turning my head to the side, away from him.
He said nothing and locked me back in. I heard him leave, the front door slamming shut, and waiting once again. I must have fallen asleep, because when I heard the front door open I sprang awake, jumping slightly, but quickly steadied myself. I was glad he was back, because I had a terrible pain in my bladder and I needed to use the bathroom very badly. I gnashed my teeth as I waited, but my stomach plummeted when I heard a voice, her voice.
"I just need to get my wallet," he said.
"I cannot believe you are taking me to that restaurant. It's supposed to be lovely!"
"Anything for you," he answered as he came back into the living room. As much as that hurt I could not believe that he would not let me out to use the restroom. He had given me a large glass of orange juice this morning. It was my favorite so I drank it. But he had to know… "Ready my darling?"
I was hurt but now I was furious. Did he completely forget about me? What I might be needing right now? I was hungry, thirsty, I had to relieve myself so badly. I wanted to cry out to him, but I remembered her words about Jews. I knew I couldn't. I did not know what my fate would be, but it would not be good. Why else would my father want this life for me instead of whatever it was he had faced.
I heard them leave and blinked. I wanted to cry. I think I did but it all blurred. I know that as the hours passed, and the night grew later, and the discomfort in my bladder turned more and more painful, I did cry, and when I felt he wet warmth of my inability to hold on any longer seep through my skirt and the floorboards around me I nearly sobbed. I would have if I did not know I needed to be so quiet.
I lay there for hours soaking in my own urine, breathing in the smell, knowing he would find me like this. When the door did open again I was beyond pleased to hear he was alone. My face was caked with dry tears, dress still damp and stained. Hot tears fell from eyes as I heard the table moved from over me, the rug rolled over, and the sound of him jostling with the floorboards. When he moved the one from my face I met his gaze and his nose crinkled. He moved the other and I was able to get my hand free.
I smacked him as hard as I could. His face moved to the side and I saw it turn red immediately. He did nothing, he only remained still, face red, eyes staring off to the side. A few more moments passed and I hit him again, on the same cheek and again he did not move. I hit him a third time and he moved the final floorboard and moved away.
"I am so sorry, Elsa," he breathed as I sat up, arms trembling, crying.
"You… y-you hum-humiliate me so y-you can be w-with her," I accused and he said nothing, sitting on the couch, looking down at the table.
"Take the dress off and take a shower," he said emotionlessly. "I'll get something for you to wear. That nice dress. The one…"
"I don't want to wear that. You bought me that," I snapped, standing, my soiled dress a mark of shame and I tried to run toward bathroom.
I nearly tore my dress off and threw it to the side, getting into the shower and cleaning myself. I scrubbed myself, turning my skin red with the force, and I cried. I stepped out, breathing hard, and wrapped a towel around myself above my breasts, and then grabbed another and wrapped it around my shoulders. I stepped outside, unsure what I might wear, and called softly for Jens, not moving from the hall outside of the bathroom.
"Jens?" I called again and he came out of his study. He had a robe in his hands and he smiled lamely, holding it out to me. I walked toward him, body trembling. As I reached out to grab the robe and tugged it closer, bringing me with it, and I looked up to meet his gaze.
'Elsa, I am so sorry," he said.
"Does she let you sleep with her?" I asked him and he blinked.
"We haven't I promise," he said, as if he owed it to me. He didn't owe me anything. I knew that. But I didn't care I was still angry. And still, him saying they had not slept together got me even angrier. Then it was her he liked better, not just that he could have her body.
"She's not Jewish," I whispered sadly. His hand came up to touch my cheek.
"Everything I do, I do for you," he said and I pulled back, the robe in my hands.
"Should I thank you then?" I asked. "For tonight?"
"I am so sorry," he said again. "I did not think…"
"Is she pretty?" I asked. He just looked at me. He took the robe and put it on around me, then let the towels fall so he could see nothing.
"Am I allowed to be out long enough to clean up my coffin?"
I said it with such force, such disgust, and so much hate, that he literally stepped back, a look of pain on his face, and he nodded. I turned and walked away.
"Jews are dying, Elsa," he said and I stopped. "They're being killed. Murdered… on a… on a mass scale… that's what they say… it's the only possible explanation, I can't imagine another… where they are… what's happening to them… and you call that your coffin."
I said nothing, looking down at the floor.
"Let me know when you are ready for me to bury you again."
He stepped into his study. I jumped as he slammed the door shut.