Part 1 Helena's story
"Helena, Get down here now!" My Father shouts up the stairway. I run down, tired of his endless rants.
"What did I do this time, Father?" I say a little too innocently. This earns me a thwak across my face. I squeeze my eyes shut as my hand flies up instinctively to block another blow, but it doesn't come. When I open my eyes, I see my Father has slouched tiredly onto the couch, looking exhausted. Whether this is a result of bad behavior on my part, or a long day of work, I am not sure. I race back upstairs, not wanting another beating. Usually, I get hit for coming home later than my curfew allows, or for leaving food out and letting it grow moldy, but today, I can honestly say I'm not sure. When Mother was around, I didn't get hit nearly as often. I really miss being able to go to school without angry red welts decorating my cheek. It's not like I can do anything about it though. My Father does what he does, no one can stop him. No one would want to stop him. In times like these, people have no sympathy for child labor, child abuse, child anything; it's like the only thing we're good for is cleaning the house, and weeding the gardens. Doing the stuff that no one else will want to do. Besides, Mother, the only person I've ever known who would pity and care for children, died three years ago during a bombing in England, I was only eight then. She was coming back from visiting her sister and Father in London. Mother was a much respected lady. According to Father I'm too young and silly to understand why, but I know it was a big thing for a lady to mean something in Europe during a war time. The blast that killed her also killed my little two year old brother, Joseph. I look in the mirror. The ugly mark of Fathers hand shining brightly on my high cheekbone. My eye has begun to swell shut from the bruise. Luckily though, the largest part of the bruise/welt can be covered by my long blond hair if I position it carefully.
'I wonder how Maria's doing' I think. I decide to go over and visit her in a half hour or so. Its 4:30 pm. Father will call me down for supper soon. He likes to have it early so he can send me to bed sooner and be done with me for the rest of the day. Sure enough, I hear his voice booming up the stairway, "Helena, come get your supper while it's still fresh!"
I knew by the sad tone hinting quietly in his loud voice that he was sorry, either for Mother and Joseph, or for hitting me, I'm not certain, but, whichever it was, I take it for granted. Sorrow makes him kinder. This will also make it easier to sneak out later and see Maria. Maria is my neighbor, however, she's Jewish so my Father, him being a Nazi, obviously doesn't approve. I go down stairs, sliding on the banister before I come into the sight of my Father. For supper, we're eating hunafrukase, a German dish with rice, chicken, asparagus, broth, and other various cooked vegetables of choice. It's one of my favorites. I sit down at the large red oak table, Father has set out the entire dinner with deserts and everything, Jacobsen, the butler, must be taking it easy somewhere. I could almost laugh at that actually- Jacobsen is a large bellied old man whose favorite thing in life is probably napping on the couch and eating sweets. Father asks me about the weather, this is what Mother used to call small talk. Small talk bores me so I just shrug. He changes the subject to school and I mention getting an 'A' on my History test. I'm in the 5th grade, 11 years old, so I'm learning about Pyramids and Egypt. Father doesn't like Egypt. I never bother to ask why; it'd just result in punishment, maybe a smacking, and no real answer. Father never answers my questions; he always says I have to figure it out in my own, or not figure it out at all because that's what his Father made him do and then he refers to his excellent and superior position compared to others.
After supper, I go up stairs and turn the lights off to make Father think I'm asleep. My bed time is usually 7:00pm, but its 5:00pm now so I read for a little while. I don't have many good books, and most of the few that I enjoy, I've read over and over again until I can predict the next page before it comes. My reading material or lack thereof is always picked by Father, and he doesn't like reading so I don't have a lot of options. Father doesn't like very much at all really. The only time's I've really seen him act happy, was at his work. But even then, it seemed to me like he was mainly just glad that he was in charge and doing things his way.
At 6:30pm, Father comes to check on me, make sure I'm in bed or getting ready for it. I pretend to be asleep so that he doesn't come to see me again. When I hear the door click shut, I quietly get out of bed and put a pillow under the covers so it looks like I'm asleep. Then I pull on a skirt and cardigan, and crawl out the window. My house has three stories to it, I was lucky enough to get the bedroom on the first floor. Even so, the views not great; I live on a crowded foggy street near the outer part of Berlin. It may be the richer part of town, and the most protected (from bombs), but it never seems that any one does gardening around town. It's funny; I can remember that one of Mothers least favorite parts about living here was that no one took care of their yards. She would work for hours with Jacobsen, cleaning, weeding, and planting in the yard, just to put some color into the dreary street. It wasn't worth much though. After she died, the garden fell to waste and became a soggy heap of grass and dirt like every other house. Maria's family may be the only ones who have flowers in their yard, Mrs. Norman, Maria's mother, takes care of them as well. Mrs. Norman was friends with Mother, I think they were friends since they were my age, or younger even, Father says that's why the Norman's are allowed to live on this street. He hates it though, he calls it outrageous.