TWO – What We Weren't Told
For a moment, my mother just stood in the doorway, horrified that we had defied her trust.
"What did you hear?" She demanded, stepping forward a little to add to her ferocity. "Well?"
"All of it…" I mumbled.
"You… you wouldn't talk to us! We wanted to make sure you were okay!" I attempted to reason with her.
"I didn't say anything to you, to protect you!" Mother shouted. At that point my father put his hand on her shoulder. Usually Father was a kind-hearted, soft, funny man, but right now he was showing his tougher side.
"We raised you, telling you to respect privacy." He went on, "This family is built on trust. The moral of this family, is trust. And all three of you, have defied our trust!" He said, in a disappointed tone which just made me fell ten times worse.
"How could you?" She shouted.
"How could you?" I shouted back, I immediately regretted it, that was the first time I had ever shouted at her. "Don't you think that we have a right to know that our Godmother has been assassinated, or that our favourite and kindest neighbour has been murdered?" What had I done? My mother looked guilty, confused but most of all, upset, and my father looked taken aback, for not even he had stood up to her like that.
"Maríon…" My father began, soothingly.
"No, no, if that's how she feels, let's tell her it all." What have I done? "You know how I told you that the Nazis were being held in Holland? Well, they're marching to Paris this very moment! That spider-ish flag is moving forward every minute, thousands of British troops are trapped in Dunkirk. The German's are coming!"
I had never heard my mother so angry before, and worse still, she was angry at me. Mother then walked over to our light wooden dining table and sat down, shielding her face with her broad, wrinkled hands. My father was rarely angry at us, but when he was, he would scowl at us, but now he was giving me and my brothers a look that said, "I'm extremely disappointed" which was the worst, because he was beyond angry, he was genuinely disappointed in us. My heart sank.
"I… erm, I…" What could I say? I turned my head and glared at my brothers, signalling for them to help me out, but they remained quiet. I was on my own on this one.
"We… we just wanted to know what was happening!" I struggled. "We are sick of all the secrets, and the lies and never actually getting a decent conversation with either of you because you're both so busy!" Anger rushed through my veins and spilled out of my mouth before I got a chance to connect my brain, because I could tell that my parents were taken aback.
"I'm sorry." My father remarked, plain but guiltily. Mother was quick to echo, before we were shooed out of the kitchen. I could tell that I had hurt their feelings, but I just didn't know if it had sent them a message, or just been plain mean.
Six hours had passed since the confrontation between myself and my parents, and not a word had been spoken amongst us. The twins were at scouts "guarding" the city, but all they really do is walk around the streets, chasing anyone that looks dodgy, though it sounds rather thrilling, and, dare I admit it, fun, though any belief like that I had would have been laughed out of me by the girls. I entered the kitchen/dining room for dinner as usual, but it felt extremely awkward for both myself and my parents. Mother and Father placed the dishes onto the table, one narrowly avoided being dropped by my mother's shaking hand. She seemed to have been shaking ever since the news of poor Lois. Lois was such a nice, gentle woman, it was hard to believe that she would harm a soul. Human or animal. But, when I thought about it, she was always reading some book from the French government that I 'wasn't aloud to see'. I dished out some duck meat onto my porcelain glass plate, along with potato, carrot and peas. After about ten minutes of unbearable silence, Mother spoke.
"So, Clement, what book are you on now?" She said before quickly forking a roast potato in her mouth just in case it wasn't the time to talk.
"Well, I finished 'The Art of Understanding: Volume III' last night, so tomorrow I'll be out looking for 'Volume IV' at the library." He said, surprisingly merrily. I could tell that they were waiting for me to talk, but I wasn't ready to talk just yet. We continued to eat until we had each finished the meal. After we had finished eating, my father lifted our plates and took them to the kitchen and began to wash them out. I saw by the look on Mother's face that she wanted to say something to me, but it seemed that the words just wouldn't come out.
"Angelica, I'm sorry. I'm sorry… I- I shouldn't have been keeping secrets from you, especially at a time like this." She sighed. "Uh, you're a big girl now, Ellie. You're not a child. I need to be more open with you, but on one condition." I raised by head and looked her square in the eyes, just where she wanted me to look, "You need to give us time, and you most certainly should not listen in on private conversations."
"I promise, I'm sorry, Mother." I replied.
"It's alright," She said in a comforting tone while hugging me.
"Now, who's for mock apple pie?" She asked, standing up. "I got this from Pierre's bakers, all the prices have gone down now that everyone has left…" I wasn't really listening to the rest, just agreeing with her and occasionally saying 'Yes'. It seems that somehow the quality of the baking has also gone down, because this apple pie was not like many of the ones that I have had from Pierre's before. Apple pie is a rare delicacy for many Parisians, because food rationing has long since started, and it even affects the wealthy, such as my family. Everyone has a ration book, and you hand it to the shopkeeper and it tells you how much you are allowed judging on what you have bought this week. You are only allowed a very little amount of meat a week, though at the green-grocer's the baskets are almost always stocked full of fruit and vegetables from the gardens down at Lou-Marén. That night I ran myself a warm, hot bubble bath. Another advantage of staying in Paris while many leave is that the sewer system is never blocked, so you can take as many baths and showers as you like.
While I was almost falling asleep in amongst the hot foam of the smooth tub, surrounded by cotton scented candles that's flames were slowly trickling down the candle string, burning away in its own time, the boys returned home. They were chatting away as normal, when I overheard Mother hush them as Father was sleeping. It always gives me a brilliant sense of satisfaction when the boys get into trouble, as I often find myself squabbling with the boys over who is the better child. I sniggered as they walked, sorely, back to their bedroom, but not before noticing my amusement. But then they watched as Mother entered the bathroom,
"Angelica, you've been in there for hours, come on, get out!" Now it was their turn to snigger and smirk as they went to lay down. The last thing I did before retiring to my bed was look out at the sun, setting on the horizon. I could see the Eiffel Tower, majestic as she was, standing tall, even though she was about to be overrun by the Nazi army. I prayed that they would not do anything to her, because she is not only France's beauty, she is also France's dignity.
As the sun rose, I was already up and about. I was desperate to redeem myself to Mr. Fournier after my abandonment of duty the previous day. He seemed to appreciate that I had came to pick the newspapers up early but did still give me a gentle lecture about responsibility. One that I heard all too often. It took me just shy of two hours to get around my area, before I walked back to Mr. Fournier's newsagent, where he gave me two francs, and thanked me for my apology. I sat in between Alban and Armand as we squeezed around the small radio that sat in the centre of the living space.
"Nothing useful there," Mother said as she turned the machine off. "Come, the vegetables look like they need a drink." It was a very warm June's day, so going out to the gardens to tend to some vegetables was hardly a chore. It was the season for little bumble-bees to start flying around, pollenating the flowers and going about their own bee business. I always had loved bumble-bees. They were always so nice, never once has one ever tried to sting me, or even go anywhere near me. As I cut a bunch of grapes from the bushes, I began hearing a light humming sound overhead. The sound gradually began to get louder and louder, I raised my head so that I was looking up at the bright blue sky. I saw what could have easily been hundreds of German bomber planes flying right over my head, blocking the sky, shadowing Paris. I knew at once what they were planning to do…
At first, you hear a deafening explosion that could (and does) break even the strongest of glass, instants later you feel an all-mighty shaking in the ground beneath your feet, then you fall to the floor if you are close enough, before finally feeling a rumble, identical to that of an earthquake. This procession continues for many tens of minutes until the boche finally decide to leave you alone.
"God! No, god!" My mother was shouting. She grabbed my hand. "Come on, we need to go! Quickly! Follow me!" We ran through the rumbling streets of central Paris until we reached St. Laoreane Metro, where many other civilians like us were taking refuge. Everyone of us knew that were taking a calculated risk. We saw the metro as a place of safety, only counting on the fact that a bomb was not dropped right where we sheltered. Every time we felt a tremor in the ground, Mother, Alban, Armand and I counted the seconds, trying to gain some kind of knowledge as to whether they were leaving or not. At once, we felt the bricks around us move out of their sockets. Surveying my surroundings, I saw many people. Some screaming and shouting, others remaining completely silent and huddling in corners, some were even talking, trying to keep their minds off of the terror unfolding in the present. The squared, glass covered lamps that dominated the grand ceiling of our tunnel, began to flicker incessantly, this nerved many fellow inhabitants of the metro, some making wimpering noises.
I felt a sudden tight, sweaty squeeze on my hand, I looked at Mother. She looked petrified, a feeling that we had in common, at once she closed her eyes, I decided that I would do the same, perhaps it would give me some kind of comfort. At this point, the bombers were directly overhead, not that I could see them, but it's the kind of thing that your sixth sense raises your awareness of. Deathly silence in the tunnel. If you tried, I am sure that you would be able to hear a pin dropping from the other end of the metro. First, there was a whistle, perhaps that was coming from someone at the other side of the metro. Gradually, the sound increased in volume and velocity, the thought began to creep in to my mind, like a Nazi to your home (so I was told) that it was a bomb. I was sure that it was a bomb, the thought had dominated my mind (like what the Nazis were going to do to France) what else could it be? Down it came, the louder it got, I started counting. Anything to get the thought of my fast-approaching demise out of my mind. I stopped counting, that depressed me.
Instead, I thought of my childhood, Avril, Paulette, Mother, Father, Armand, Alban, everyone who makes me happy. Following that, my whole life began flashing in front of my eyes, my first memory, Mother and Father taking me atop the Eiffel Tower, Armand and Alban taking me to my first day at school, the first show I was in. For a brief moment, I even forgotten about the lamentable situation that was moments from ensuing. For a last second, my mind turned back to the case at hand, maybe I would get lucky, maybe god will see fit to see me and my family through another day. Either way, I was going to find out my fate. Five, four, three, two…