The Professor's Daughter
Reading Level: 6th to 8th Grade
Caro Spizzo woke to the sound of a new song playing on her clock radio. The sound was low and it took a bit to wake such a heavy sleeper. Groggily, she reluctantly swung her legs over the side of the daybed. Delicate, pale hands batted at the curtains she had pulled closed the night before. The sixteen year old girl eventually freed herself from the warm bedding and sheer fabric. The quilt was not so bad but the sheets tended to get wrapped around her legs. Caro had tripped over the curtains a time or two.
It was five in the morning and that was early enough to avoid running into the exchange student from southern Germany. Josef was a naturally tanned young man who pronounced most of his W's like V's. He was studying English and attending school at the local high school this year and he had special classes with the Professor. This is the first year Caro was also attending the local high school with one of the foreign exchange students. The Professor had started home school with Caro when she'd first come to stay with him, about three years ago.
Caro grabbed a white towel, a soft robe, and a hair towel wrap out of her armoire and went to get a shower. A half hour later Caro darted from the bathroom down the hall and back into her room in her terrycloth robe and hair towel. She got back into her bed, still covered head to toe in terrycloth, and fell back asleep.
At six o'clock the tall grandfather clock downstairs chimed loudly six times. By the last sound, Caro had forced herself out of bed. She could see through her diamond shaped window panes the rain that had started to fall last night. She sighed and went to get dressed.
Caro put on striped knit tights, a long sleeved black and white striped tunic, a navy pleated skirt, and a light knit cardigan. A set of small, delicate silver hoop earrings had been one of the first gifts she'd received from the Professor. She added a long, chunky necklace made of rope and white pearls as an afterthought. The necklace had been a gift from a previous exchange student named Olivier from Quebec. The towels she threw across the pale green round overstuffed chair that served as a reading nook. Out of habit, she braided her long brown hair so that it hung down the front of her right side.
She walked through the loft area and down the stairs toward the first floor. There were two bedrooms other than hers on the second floor. One of those rooms was empty now but the Professor was talking about taking two exchange students next year, if the war allowed it. The third floor had the Professors study and master bedroom. Caro liked sitting in the high bar stool chairs slightly more than she liked sitting at the Irish pub style table and booth in the dining room. This morning, though, the Professor and Josef were already at the table in the dining room. Caro knew they preferred it when she sat with them for breakfast so she took her bowl of cereal to the table.
"Good morning, Caro," the Professor lowered the newspaper and folded it next to his cup of coffee.
"Good morning, Professor," she replied quietly. She avoided his pale green eyes, a mirror of her own eyes, and accidentally met Josef's eyes instead. Josef dark eyes were gentle as he smiled.
"Guten tag, fraulein," Josef told her. The Professor gave Josef a stern look and the young man corrected himself hastily.
"I mean, good day, Miss Caro," Josef said, although the merry look on his dark face made Caro think he was teasing the Professor.
"It is more common to say good morning in English," the Professor correct, unfazed. Maybe he didn't realize Josef was yanking his chain.
"Good morning, Miss Caro," Josef said, still grinning.
"Guten tag, Josef," Caro was amused. She earned a surprised look from the Professor before he sighed, dramatically.
"We are supposed to speak only English in our home while Josef is here," the Professor told Caro, "But if you intend to learn German, Caro, you should work on your pronunciation."
"Ja," Josef said, earning another look from the Professor and made Caro hide a quick smile behind her arm.
"It is a matter of interest that I spoke with an old friend in the War Office yesterday regarding Josef's status as a foreign exchange student from Germany," the Professor began. Both Josef and Caro stopped smiling abruptly.
Josef was a foreign exchange student. He had been born in Austria but had immigrated to Germany when he was eight years old. Being a German citizen and not a United States citizen when the two were at war was going to be a problem. He had arrived on the Professor's doorstep early, before the news reported that Germany had eased Poland. The war had been officially declared after Josef had arrived and Caro suspected that had been intentional but she didn't know why.
"Josef, as a German citizen you would normally be sent to an internment camp in Georgia or Utah. However, I have spoken with my friend and he has agreed to grant me the favor of allowing you to be interned here under my supervision," the Professor tried to smile, but it didn't reach his eyes, "I will discuss with you the details, but the most important is that you must go straight to school with Caro and straight home with Caro every single school day. You are not allowed to go anywhere else unless it is in my company. When you arrive home today we will go together to my friend's office to fill out the appropriate paperwork."
"Are you going to be drafted?" Caro asked, quietly.
"No," the Professor looked briefly surprised before he smiled, "I served overseas during the last great war. I am considered to have done my part for our nation. Besides, I am your father and your only guardian. I'm not sure I could be forced to leave you, given the situation."
Chiara Spizzo, Caro's mother, had lost her parental rights three years ago when she had allowed Caro to nearly be beaten to death and had helped to hide the crime.
Caro distracted herself from things she would rather not think about by considering her father. The First World War had started in 1914 and ended in 1918. She didn't know how old her father was but he looked to be in his forties or fifties. Professor Sean Spillane was fit but he did not seem to Caro much like a soldier. He was every inch the Professor, with his reading glasses, tweed overcoat, and bowtie. She knew very little about how her parents' relationship except that she thought the Professor had been teaching at the university where her mother had been a student. Caro wondered sometimes about how the two of them had ended up together and how they had parted ways.
"Will I be drafted?" Caro asked, and then felt stupid. Women were never drafted.
The Professor smiled as he sipped his coffee, "Even if you were not female, Caro, you are only sixteen and a full-time student."
"Would they be able to draft me? Would it help my position?" Josef asked. Caro remembered that Josef was seventeen and if he were a citizen he might be eligible to be drafted.
"It might help the attitude of those around us but I don't believe they will draft you," the Professor responded, "You are a full-time student and you might be granted that exception even if you were a citizen. If you did decide to enlist, I believe you would be granted citizenship upon your return. Would you like me to look into that for you?"
"I do not know. Maybe. Yes," Josef looked grim, an expression that was at odds with what Caro knew about him. He didn't talk much about Germany and she wondered if it had something to do with his reaction. Maybe he hadn't liked Germany and had wanted to become a citizen here. She thought it was extremely brave of him, if that was the case.
The Professor nodded at them both and took his coffee and his paper with him. She knew he would go to his study. He worked from his study most days. He was called to do work outside their home frequently, but not according to any pattern of schedule she could decipher. She caught the sad smile on his face as he turned away from the table.
Caro went downstairs to pull out blue snow boots from the shoe storage box by the front door. She retrieved her long white and black wool coat and purse from the railroad spike coat rack. Her white knit beanie and fuzzy earmuffs were stuffed into one large pocket and a pair of matching mittens was stuffed into the other. Josef, who said he was more accustomed to the cold, wore less to protect him from the weather and was ready sooner. Josef waited for her though, holding her blue and brown canvas backpack out to her.
They left the grey stone manor together. It was only a few city blocks to Thornwood High School and Caro enjoyed the exercise, although she preferred the walk in the warmer months. The wind tousled Josef's already careless straight dark hair. Caro's braid was still damp from her shower and it chilled her neck. Caro walked on the sidewalk which was clear of snow. Josef climbed more than he walked, reminding her a little of the gymnasts who use urban areas as giant obstacle course style playgrounds. Josef was slender and flexible. He moved in a way that Caro admired the way she admired ballerinas. He caught her gaze by chance and she felt herself flush.
"Have a good day," Josef told her. He was a senior and an exchange student so he had different classes. Caro's first class was a sophomore mathematics course which seemed to involve equations with more letters in them than numbers.
She waved at Josef, "You, too."
The desks were the old-fashioned beige school one piece desk and chair. The teacher, Mrs. Miller, had long spiraling strawberry blonde hair and a friendly round face. As much as Caro disliked the class she truly liked Mrs. Miller. Caro sat next to only one boy in first period, both of them trying to sit as far back as the classroom would allow. The rest of the seats in the back row were empty. He usually wore worn in blue jeans that had gotten him sent to the principal's office a time or ten. His name, she knew mostly from roll call and grading his papers, was Teyrn Devonshire. His accent told her he had lived in England but he wasn't an exchange student. England was an ally, Caro knew, so Teyrn didn't face the same unfriendliness and discrimination that Josef would experience.
Teyrn often dressed in what she supposed was a combination of rebellion and hand-me-downs from his military family. Sometimes he wore black cargo pants instead of jeans but he always wore a military green jacket. He also hadn't showered today, if his greasy greenish blonde hair was any indication. She didn't know what gave his hair that color. Someone had told her that blonde hair turned green in chlorinated water so she supposed his family had a pool or he swam a lot at the community pool. He wasn't on the swim team, as far as she was aware.
The day passed without incident. Josef and Caro walked home together silently. Caro stayed home by herself doing homework while Josef and the Professor went to fill out paperwork. When everyone arrived home that evening for dinner the mood was somber. They ate a cup of red clam chowder with a dish of noodles, mushrooms, and bacon in a tomato sauce. Dessert was baked apples with cream and coffee. Caro still drank her coffee the way her mother had prepared it for her as a child, with extra cream and sugar and only half a cup of coffee.
"Did everything work out the way you wanted it to?" Caro asked the Professor and Josef.
"More or less," the Professor said, brow furrowed.
"Ja," Josef said quietly.
"Are you okay?" Caro asked him.
"I applying as a refugee," he told her, "Because mien... eltern... sie waren…"
Caro looked at the Professor as Josef switched to German and eventually trailed off.
"Josef's father was killed last year in November," the Professor told her, "Now, we are having trouble locating his mother."
"Because my father," Josef said, trying English again, but with a heavy accent, "He was… Politiker? Rebellen? Abweichler?"
When Josef looked at the Professor for help he explained.
"Politiker is politician," the Professor said, gently, "Rebellen is rebel, and abweichler is dissenter."
"His father was like the people that Attorney General Palmer had arrested in the 20's," Caro surmised.
"Yes," the Professor agreed, hesitantly, "What do you think about those actions, Caro?"
Caro raised an eyebrow but she answered the question, "It is a duty and a freedom for citizens to criticize the government and the society of the United States. It is not only un-American to deny people the right to disagree but unhealthy. When no one is allowed to say, 'No, we need to do better' then we will not improve. War is never good and no one ever wins, but I would hope that Europe will at least be freed of tyrants and murderers."
The Professor smiled and Josef looked relieved.
"I thank you," Josef said quietly and Caro looked uncomfortable.
"The war is likely to affect our lifestyle. If it goes on for long, and I have a feeling it will, then there will be rationing of certain foods and luxuries," the Professor told the two of them, "Since tomorrow is Saturday, I would like to take both of you to Manhattan for lunch. I know a French restaurant on 60th street that serves an excellent filet of sole with almonds and butter. It's a rather formal atmosphere, if my memory still serves me."