It was a pejorative situation when Marguerite left with the Kenyons that afternoon for their annual summer vacation.“You know why she’s going with them of course,” Patricia barked tetchily.
“She is the nanny and the children are going, so I can only assume that what Mr. and Mrs. Kenyon say is true,” Nella replied, her voice trembling.“And you saw how devastated she was when that synagogue was burnt down.”
“You’d believe anything anybody told you.You know as well as I do that’s not so.After all, they didn’t bring her last summer, and they brought the kids.They obviously don’t really need her for that.”
“Perhaps,” interjected Jay, hoping to bring some peace to the discussion, “it is because she has never been outside of Radara, and perhaps they feel that, as she has done so much for them and worked so hard despite her few years, she deserves a treat.Or because, after what happened to her, they wish to give her a relaxing time, to give her something to enjoy.”
“And what about us, the ones who have been working hard for them forever?It isn’t that.I wish you wouldn’t take up for her, too, prissy little imp!No…it’s because there’s something going on with she and Mr. Kenyon.”
“Now, Trisha!” exploded Jay.“This I will not have!I’ll admit that they’re very fond of one another, more so than normal for people of their stations, that’s true, but…really!You insult the character of the finest man I’ve ever known and I won’t stand for it!”
“Of course you won’t.But you know it’s true.I know you’ve seen things.So have I.And I’m sure Nella here knows lots of things.You’re close to her.They are together, aren’t they?”
“I don’t know,” Nella quavered.“I only know that they’re friends.”
“Hmph.I don’t care what anybody says.Those two are involved in something scandalous and no one’s going to change my mind.”
The things that haunted her nightmares most frequently were the images of a blonde man hovering over her, prepared completely to violate her and beat her so that death seemed a pleasant release.The very idea that people were still rounded up on a daily basis and brought there alarmed her more than anything, along with the knowledge that she could end up right back there just as easily and unnecessarily as she’d landed herself there the first time.Marguerite felt for a sure fact that if she were ever made to go through that again she would die.Her mind wouldn’t survive another excursion like that, it couldn’t.After one month she’d almost wanted to give up.The smell came back to her in nightmares.True that her location wasn’t what Channer called castri mortem, it nevertheless was a camp designed to ruin the health and life of any prisoner involved.The ignorance of the common people pained her, but she didn’t blame them for it.How could they know when they’d never experienced and the soldiers wouldn’t tell them?Yet because they were ignorant they dropped like flies off of the face of the earth.The fault was none of theirs but they paid the price, and dearly.She could still feel the fire on her feet, the empty growling in her stomach, the penetrating cold within her bones, and above all the suspicion which constantly loomed and evolved daily into a surety that death was going to come to her.And men like Karl.Children were sent to facilities, too, and Marguerite could be thankful that she’d been sent to a camp for political prisoners; the others were worse.But she couldn’t imagine any children being sent to a camp like that.And while the aim of a political detainment camp wasn’t to kill the prisoners, the jailers took no care to differentiate between the conditions.Disease was still rampant in both places, deaths occurred every day (naturally in one more than the other), conditions were slovenly and damp, bitterly cold in the windier days and boiling hot on the more still and sunny days.And every day they loaded another cartload.
But, she would remind herself upon waking from these dreams where she walked amongst the dead again, she was out of Shendleigh entirely at the moment, on vacation in the warm suns of the Swiss valleys.Channer had made it a point to have the family vacation in Switzerland, and to invite Marguerite.After all, Switzerland was entirely neutral, and he couldn’t think of a better way to speed her recovery than to bring her there, the one place where war and torture couldn’t touch her.Mrs. Kenyon perhaps wasn’t pleased at their extra passenger, but she understood the necessity and never once complained and was always kind and courteous…in Marguerite’s presence, anyway, but Channer maintained that that was enough.And the children were naturally riotous with pleasure that Marguerite had joined them.
It was an enjoyable few months.During the warmest hours of the afternoon she would lie on the beach and let the breaking surf gently lap her toes, taking heartbreaking pleasure in the feel of sunlight against her skin.To lie on one’s back in the sun was a pleasure Marguerite decided no one should ever give up for anything.To feel the rays of heat caressing her face and heating her arms, she was loath to get up when the time came.
Mrs. Kenyon dug sandcastles with Ruthie.She often felt itchy in her red cotton swimming gear, but she accepted the discomfort because it was expected of her.Besides, no one else wanted to play with Ruthie.Marguerite had to recuperate, the older children were swimming, and Channer was busy staring off into space.
Channer sat and watched his mistress’ body lying on the sand, soaking up imagery like a plant, so scantily clad in her bathing suit.To be ogling her bare legs and arms, her appealing figure warmed by sun and roughened by sea air when his wife was feet away was ridiculous, he knew it, but he couldn’t stop it.The suit she had was a bit out of fashion, by two years at least, but she wore it like an empress and made the old fashions look new, sparkling, and daring.The top looked like a blue and white sailor’s uniform, the anchor near the throat with the white lapels with the blue trim, puffed sleeves and a skirt with blue lining as well.Perhaps even this wasn’t so fetching, but it was open like a robe, and the belt tied around her waist, tightening the top, making the short skirt billow some, was just too much.It all matched her eyes and her temperament so that just to look at her was to know her on sight and love her.He was embarrassed to be staring at her bare legs, dripping toes hanging over the edge of the sand’s end.He wanted her there by the sea but he was restricted and loathed it
She went swimming in the waters of Bodensee that were cold, too cold for memory, but which warmed to her quickly and then she was joined by children anxious to play chase.She taught them how to swim like merpeople, keeping their legs together while they kicked.They had fallen in love with her because she could play, and still now they adored her for the same reason.Even after one month of hell she could still understand the pleasures of childhood and she knew she had a job to do, and so she played.She made herself play, because once she forgot how to do that she knew she’d really be dead.They played merpeople and Marco Polo and tag, and any number of water games.They built sandcastles and fortresses, drew pictures and wrote their names in the sand.And in Switzerland everyone in the family was happy for the first time in months.
The family did not go to the mountains.Marguerite wanted the sun and warmth and the beach, and so they remained at a low level.But they did gorge themselves on Swiss chocolate.Channer bought her more than he did his wife, and Marguerite hastily broke most of it up for the children.It certainly was a pleasurable food, but out of all the varieties they tried, Marguerite really latched onto the dark chocolate.Those bars she kept for herself, and how glad Channer was to give them to her.Money was a matter of no concern.Although she had some of her own, she returned with barely a dent in her wallet.Channer bought her presents recklessly, and they were charming presents.Lovely dresses, little knick-knacks, nothing terribly useful but nevertheless wonderful because for her they symbolized something glorious.The items represented to her escapism from everything that was miserable and wrong in her life.It was difficult to dream of horrible German officers and deep purple uniforms and knives and deathly cold and murdered old men when she was clutching a stuffed snowman to her breast.
They were three of the most bittersweet months of her life.The warmth and the nature did her soul good; she was rejuvenated in ways no amount of bed rest could have achieved, and some of the natural impish ways came back where they’d been gone.Sometimes she’d look across the endlessly stretching waters of Bodensee and think of Germany laying there, waiting, threatening her with reminders that they could always produce men like Karl.Any country could, it wasn’t difficult.But these she could forget with the sun on her face and the laughter of children all around her, the ones she loved and the strangers.The food was delectable and she ate so much she could hardly believe it.The distant mountains brought serenity to her mind, along with the constant assurance that they were a neutral nation and that was to be respected.She had fine new clothes and charming companions who showed her the best time she’d had in her life.The only disappointing side was that, while she was with Channer for hours every day, she had no hours with him at night, and never any hours alone.He seemed to suffer from the separation more than she did, but it still pained her.She lay awake at night, alone and restless, and when she did sleep it wasn’t the thick, pillowing sleep she’d known in his arms.And when the nightmare would attack her and she awoke there were no tender embraces or kisses waiting, not gentle whispers that all was well and she was safe from that which plagued her.She was more alone upon waking than she had been while dreaming, and in the mornings, seeing his handsome face over breakfast, she nearly expired at not being able to hold him in her arms.
The summer passed too quickly.She wanted to stay there forever, to never go back to Shendleigh.There was no reason to go back.How could the rest of the family bring themselves to return there, knowing the awful things about it that they did?How could they not be frightened, bearing the facts as they did?Had she weakened so much, or had they always been so brave?The children were excited to get back to their school and their friends, Pricilla had friends to visit, and she had to instruct them not to go to Switzerland for it was a ghastly place.Marguerite, of course, couldn’t help but wonder if Pricilla liked it anywhere.Channer had his law work to do, as well as a few other “odds and ends” and he wished to chat with Norman.But their nanny sobbed all night for the three nights before their train was to leave.It couldn’t be happening.Here they were, they were out!They had escaped, why ever did they have to go back?Switzerland was neutral, and so what they had defected?No one could touch them here.
But her things were packed.They were piled by the door.And then they were in a coach.And then their things were in compartments over their heads.Now they were sitting on a train and Marguerite refused to cry as the scenery whizzed past her, leaving behind that contented part of her that had lain on the beach and smiled, eyes closed, at the sun for the life it gave, for all that it renewed.She put a hand on the glass and Channer saw, but could say nothing.If only for a moment of privacy…but his wife hadn’t left his side the entire trip, and the children hadn’t left Marguerite’s.He felt guilty for bringing her back.He knew what was in her mind, knew the dread that was bubbling, slow and sticky like hot tar at the base of her brain.But what else could he do?He felt helpless before her silent, prideful misery.If only she would weep openly perhaps he’d be excused to taking her in his arms for a while.
At the station she was aware of the hustle and bustle of busy people.Everyone had somewhere to go.Everyone was busy in Shendleigh.Not a soul was out of line and no one was idle.No one took the time out to enjoy themselves and everyone had two jobs to do: whatever work their leaders gave them, and to keep their eyes down.Marguerite stood on the threshold of the train and hesitated.The bags had been passed already to Sid’s willing hands.The family was exiting, one by one, heading for their coachman and their blue rig.But Marguerite lingered back.She was the last one to exit the comfort of the train and she trembled, holding onto the bar beside the door, frankly afraid to exit, as though fearing arrest upon her first step back for the crime of living and enjoying herself.Pricilla looked up at the form of her hired help standing stupidly in the doorway, eyes enormous and breath heaving.“Come along, Miss Kassirer, we must get home.We all have work to do.”But still she didn’t budge, the fingers that grasped the bar damp with cold sweat.If she never left the train, then perhaps she could go away somewhere, anywhere else, and start over again happily.That’s what she’d do.She’d ride the train until the end of the line, and then she would –
“Out of my way, Sister Sue,” snapped the man behind her, who had long since tired of staring at the charming bottom before him and waiting for it to exit.He shoved her forcefully and she fell forward onto the platform, stumbling before regaining her balance.
Well, she was still alive, and that was one thing to be thankful for.At least, she hoped it was.
© Copyright 2016 Lina Leigh. All rights reserved.