I’m going to post this in instalments – I hope that you like it!
“Lead me to the truth and I/Will follow you with my whole life” – White Blank Page, Mumford and Sons.
“Burning books is easy. But you can’t burn the truth”
It’s the first thing the girl has said to him in…what, three, four days? Perhaps longer.
“One man’s truth is another man’s lie”
“That man could be wrong”
“And he could be right” a moment’s pause, “You’re a child. You don’t understand”
“If you say so”
She will stop speaking to him again now. She does this – airs her views – and, when his inevitable disagreement comes, she shuts down, freezes him out. Thing is, he always knew he’d lose his daughter one day – to short skirts and make up and a dashing young boy with golden hair. Not to the red, white and black band he wears on his arm. What man dreams of losing his daughter to a scrap of cloth?
She ignores him, this small stranger of not-quite-sixteen. The flames dance in her eyes as each page curls and blackens, making her seem to drift farther and farther away. Ideas burn, too – they start off as sparks and ignite as flames – and it’s his job to stamp the sparks out before they explode into a roaring blaze. Turn them to ash, to dust, to air. (these could be single sentences to create a cold effect)
“You should be standing with the rest of the Bund Deutscher Mädel, Gritte”
She looks at him with empty eyes. Her cheeks are streaked with ash; blobs of it cling to her eyelashes like dozens of tiny black insects. When she looks at him, he thinks of her mother – his Isla – with her dark curls and her smile and that scarlet dress with the little white flowers she wore the night they met. He wishes that their daughter looked more like her mother and less like a sandy-haired street urchin.
The Kommandant speaks; the people follow, arms raised, voices ringing, fever pitch. Gritte slips away on bare feet, toes singed pink from the too-close sparks, arms stiff by her sides.
The smoke moves slowly and languidly down the street, soft as a Lady’s breath. Gritte tips her head back as far as it will go to watch the ghosts of the books dance among the clouds, wondering if they can see it up in Heaven. Because she still believes in Heaven, even after all that has happened, all that has gone wrong. Everyone needs to have faith in something, after all – even her.
Her neck aches when she looks back down, and she rubs it absentmindedly with grubby hands as she walks towards the allotments. The local Rabbi used to tend the allotments with such loving care; the child within Gritte still remembers the green flowering cabbages, pulling up carrots and potatoes from the ground, washing off the dirt then paddling in the puddle the water left behind. Now the ground is barren and dry, and the shed where he once stored his tools is broken down, storing the books that Gritte is too scared to keep in the same house as her father.
She pushes the door open too easily; the first thing she sees is a pair of eyes so dark that they are almost black. When she pulls down the square of linen covering the window, letting the cold daylight spill in, she discovers that the black eyes belong to a slender boy in a uniform that she does not recognise, with hair that badly needs washing or cutting or…something. The black eyes weep.
“Please” he speaks in halting, broken German, words thrumming low in his throat, as out of place as the wrong note on a piano, “Bitte. Please. Bread?”