The Ghostly Grey

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Max’s mind went on a race of possible ideas of what in the world his mother needed him to see. Nazis? Jews? Bomb threats? All very possible in the year 1943 in a small German town.

Chapter 1 (v.1) - The Beginning

Submitted: October 04, 2013

Reads: 356

Comments: 10

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Submitted: October 04, 2013

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The year was 1943. Max Sturm awoke to the sound of his mother screaming for him. He immediately jumped out of his bed as quickly as his body would allow him. Of course, a healthy twenty-year-old’s body (although slightly crippled from the absence of a left hand) is faster than most, and he was downstairs before his mother could take a breath. His mother, Hanna, stood near the window, grey eyes darting from one end of the glass to the other. Her hands were firm against the wooden sill to keep her balanced as she stood on her toes to get a better view. He had never noticed how small his mother was until he ran down seeing her staring out of the window that was a little too tall for her.

“Mama, what is it?” he asked, trying to catch a breath from the sudden panicked sprint. Hanna was still glued to the window, intensively watching without so much as a nod to call him closer. Max’s mind went on a race of possible ideas of what in the world his mother needed him to see. Nazis? Jews? Bomb threats? All very possible in the year 1943 in a small German town.

“Neighbors, new neighbors,” she nearly whispered into the fogged glass. Max immediately relaxed. He must have been tenser than what he was aware, as his muscles ached the second he let them go.

“That’s it? That’s what you screamed at me for? Neighbors?” he knew the small house next to theirs was vacant, and he knew it would be occupied some time soon. His mother’s shouting made it official.

“Not just any neighbors,” his mother added. She dropped to her heels and walked over to her son, her only child, her only family. She took pride in the resemblance between them. The same grey eyes, dark hair, fair skin. The only major difference was their heights. Her son now towered over her, and his shoulders broadened as his muscles grew strong. No doubt that the NSDAP would draft him the instant he applied. Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for Hanna) his crippled left arm disqualified him. She loved him dearly, and refused to let Max out of her reach, a motherly instinct. She had already lost a husband, and her little heart could only take so much.

“What makes these neighbors any different?” he scoffed, slouching into a wooden chair at the dinner table. His mother moseyed over to the chair across the table. She gently sat, lightly placing her hands in her lap, right over left.

“They’re a family of three,” she said, fighting back a grin. The grin won. “A mother, father, and daughter.  The daughter is very beautiful, Max.” Hanna turned her head away, eyes in a distant place to avoid contact from Max’s hostile hue of grey. Much to her surprise, he slightly chuckled. Her heart burned at the sound of it. It sounded just like his father’s. Deep and gentle, usually after she had said something humorous or downright ridiculous. She could hear her husband now.

“Oh Hanna,” Josef would say, taking her in his arms and placing a wet kiss on her forehead. “You’re an interesting woman, do you know that?” Her eyes met his, waiting for a reply to come.

“Mama, I don’t think you understand that I’m not interested in finding a wife right now,” he finally answered. His voice was soft, unlike its usual rugged tone. “What’s the point of marrying now? In the middle of a war?” Hanna knew he was trying to be as gentle as possible, but she couldn’t help herself. Tears began to well in her eyes. She wanted a daughter; she wanted a grandchild, desperately. With the war going on, she never knew if today would be her last day. The new neighbors gave her a spark of hope. Maybe the girl and her son would fall in love; maybe they would get married and have her first grandchild. Maybe they would grow old together, and let her hold their child. Maybe, but maybe not. Max was leaning more on the “maybe not”.

“I just thought you might be,” she brokenly murmured. Max stood and walked over to his mother, who was struggling against the tears that are pushing to fall down her cheek. He bent his knees down to be at eye level with her, left arm resting on the table.

“If it makes you feel better,” he said, “I’ll go and introduce myself. I’ll see her for myself.” He kissed his mother on her head, her dark hair slightly sticking to his lips until he pulled away. Hanna looked up at him, eyes a misty grey.

“Not in those clothes, you’re not.” He gave her that slight chuckle again, and she stood, Max doing the same. “Now go upstairs and change. I have washing to do.” He smiled at her then rushed back up the stairs. Max dug a while through his clothes, and then found clean pants and a shirt to match. He quickly threw them on (or as quickly as a young man with one hand could) then was out the door in a few seconds. There was a reason his last name was Sturm. He rushed everywhere he went in a thunderous manner, like a storm tearing through the countryside on its way to the cities.

The warm German air heated his lips and he turned to his left, seeing a small car parked in front of the house next door. He (quite thunderously) made his way to the car, looking for an unfamiliar face to appear. The first he saw was a man, which he assumed was the father, standing on the small porch of his newly bought home. Max approached the man, he left wrist tucked in his pocket. It wasn’t that he was afraid to show the bare handless wrist, but it brought up unwanted questions that Max hated answering.

“Hello there, son,” the father greeted with a bright smile. Max shook his hand, smiling right back. “Are you from around here?”

“Yes, I am. I live in the house right there,” Max replied, gesturing to his own home no more than twenty feet away. The man turned and took a glance at 11 North Berlin Street, aka the Sturm residence.

“That’s a nice house you have there…” he paused, unsure what to refer to the young man as.

“Max Sturm,” Max answered. The man’s bright smile returned in an instant.

“Well then, Max Sturm. My name is Erik Braun.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Herr Braun. May I assist you in any way?” Erik rubbed his jaw, blue eyes scanning the rooms within view through the window.

“There is one thing you can do, Max.” he said, “You can meet the rest of my family: my wife and my daughter.” Max nodded his head.

“It would be a pleasure.” Erik walked into his home, Max following from behind. He had seen this empty house many times before. It was full of dusty wooden shelves, creaky floorboard, and windows tined from the dirt. Nothing excited to take note of, except the new residences. The Brauns. Max spotted a tiny woman, about the size of his own mother, cleaning the counter in the kitchen. Her brunette hair was graying, and her blue eyes focused on the task before her. That was until Max and Erik approached.

“Barbara, this is Max,” Erik stated out loud. The woman, now known to Max as Barbara, turned to face him. She scanned him, and then smiled up at him as she slid beside her husband.

“Max, it’s wonderful to meet you,” she spoke in a gentle voice. Her eyes kept wandering from him to the empty room behind him, but Max decided to act like he never noticed. “May I ask your age?”

“Twenty.”

“You are a strong young man. How did you manage to still be here and not in the war?” Instead of being offended, Max decided he liked Barbara Braun. She was quick and to-the-point, with little hesitation. He appreciated that.

“Barbara,” Erik whispered sharply.

“No, I’m not offended,” Max quickly added. His eyes went down to Barbara’s. They were a shimmering blue, quite stunning, really. “I had an accident when I was a child,” Max stated, withdrawing his left wrist from his pocket. “I was ineligible.” Both Erik and Barbara stood, eyes glued at his wrist. The awkward silence was then filled with a loud thud. All three jumped, but two immediately knew the source of the noise. Their daughter.

“Barbara, could you go find Elsa? I’m sure she would love to meet our new friend, Max.” Erik asked his petite wife. She nodded her head and turned to retrieve her, but her trip was cut short. A young woman, no more than two years younger than Max, walked into the kitchen, her sleeve pressing up against her cheek. Max saw her and immediately knew his mother was right. She was beautiful.


© Copyright 2017 Haley Choi. All rights reserved.

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