Tog-Teglech (Day by Day)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a (lucky) young Jewish family living in Brussels during WWII.

Submitted: January 28, 2009

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Submitted: January 28, 2009

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The last of the soft golden sunlight trickled through the darkening leaves and branches of the noble trees as the young couple walked hand in hand down the winding path. It was early fall of 1940, and nothing could have been so wonderful. The leaves were turning pleasant shades of vermilion and gold, and danced in the wind as they fell to the ground. The trail was a patchwork of vivid colours as the young lovers walked; soft crunching sounds emanated from each step they took. The girl smiled as the brisk fall wind tousled her ebony curls, as it lapped at her face and tugged gently at her dress. Her lovely features seemed to be profound in the evening light to her boyfriend, as he would sneak a glance at her dark eyes and blushed cheeks as they walked along in silence.
She stopped and took both of his hands in hers. She looked up into his sable eyes and smiled. “It’s all so beautiful, isn’t it?”
He nodded. “Yes, it…it is…” He pulled his hand from hers as she wrapped her free arm around him. The right words raced through his head like blackbirds fluttering around in the trees. His heart beat fast and, though he knew it was rather asinine, was more nervous than he had ever been in his entire life. His head spun, and he could hardly believe the words that uttered from his lips. Had he said it too soon? Should he have waited a few more months? What if she said no? “Would you marry me?”
The young woman looked up and for a second their souls touched. Her eyes filled with tears as she smiled and nodded her head frantically. She sighed and fell into him as he tried to slip the modest ring on her slender finger.
.: EARLY FALL, 1944 :.
The brisk fall breeze blew teasingly through the young lady’s luscious curls, a slight nip warned her that winter was well on it’s way, and fall was on the threshold of being over. She made her way down the side walk, one hand holding a bag of groceries, the other the hand of her little girl.
“Keep up, Ita.” She gripped the child’s hand as she smiled at the little face that gazed up at her.
They came to the door of the shop that the young lady’s husband owned.
Inside the little shop, the tall, dark haired, slim figure stood behind the counter.
The little girl let go of her mother’s hand and ran towards her father. He bent down and she leapt into his arms.
“Hello, there.” He smiled as he hugged his daughter, and his eyes filled with happiness.
Despite the reign of the Nazi regime tightening its grip on Europe, the small family still managed to live life as conventionally as possible, even if it meant having yellow fabric stars on their coats and certain hours they could be away from their home.
“Ita,” the young man said, “look what Mrs. Rosenberg sent for you.” He handed the excited little girl a small handmade doll. Her dark eyes filled with joy as she took the doll from his hands.
“Thank you!” She hugged the toy joyously.
“I’ll take you to see Mrs. Rosenberg tomorrow since it is too late tonight. You can tell her thank you then.” He ran his fingers through her messy, windblown hair. “Alright?”
She grinned and nodded.
The young mother set the bag of groceries down on the counter and stood next to her husband. She sighed as he put his arm around her shoulders. No one said a thing because the atmosphere said it all. Nothing could have been so perfect.
The young husband took the groceries up the stairs to the modest flat as his wife followed with Ita who trailed her intently stroking the doll’s yarn hair.
“How was the market?” The husband smiled as he set the grocery bag down on the counter.
His wife sighed. “Fine. I saw your sister. She said that things are getting much worse. Remember Jan and his wife?”
He nodded almost cautiously, a glint of worry tinting his eyes.
“Your sister says she hasn’t seen them in two weeks. She thinks…”
With a look and a nod, he cut her off in mid sentence. “I think I have a good idea of what my sister thinks. We tend to think alike.” He sighed.
“Horrible times.” She leaned into his comforting arms. “I don’t believe I’ve ever been quite so frightened in my life as I have these past years.”
He searched his mind for something to say. The Nazis were definitely something to be frightened about, even if they weren’t ‘stateless Jews‘; they were citizens of Belgium just as much as their non-Jewish neighbours. As far as they had heard, it was mostly stateless Jews disappearing into forced labour camps such as Mechelen, and further than that, they were Belgian. The Belgian Jews were protected, for some time at least, more than Jews who were citizens of the other countries, which was some mass of politics that the common people were aware of, but mostly just thankful to be pardoned, for now, from the deportations ravaging families. A spark! “It’ll all end soon enough, and we will be a little family without fear once more. Just as soon as this wretched war is over, we will go for a vacation. How does that sound?” He held her close. “How does France sound? We’ll go to Paris…” His words trailed off into thoughts as his lips met hers.
The kiss went unnoticed by the child who played with her gift by the warm amber glow of the fire.
Their lips parted. “I believe I need to start on dinner.” They smiled to one another, and embraced once more. As they stood in the kitchen, a loud, frantic knock at the front door startled them.
Ita stopped playing by the fireplace, and husband and wife pulled out of embrace to look each other in the eye.
“You don’t think…” The young lady’s voice was overflowing with uneasiness.
Apprehension and anxious anticipation filled the flat as the young man moved quietly across the room to the door. He and his wife figured that the Nazis were not a matter of life and death, rather death and death. To comply with their orders would end in deportation, as would evading them.
He looked through the peep hole in the door and instead of seeing the staunch, emotionless National Socialists, saw the small, graying figure of Mrs. Rosenberg.
The young woman inhaled quietly as her husband unlocked and opened the door.
The dark, watery eyes of Mrs. Rosenberg were tinted with sadness and distress.
“Mrs. Rosenberg!” Ita cheerfully leaped up from her place on the rug and into the woman’s arms.
She smiled through tears and hugged the little girl in return. “Hello, dear.”
“Come on, Ita, let her in.” The youthful mother held the little girl’s hand and led her into the living room. “Would you like some tea?”
The older woman smiled. “That would be lovely.”
The young lady left for the kitchen.
The young man eased into a chair as Ita ran to him to sit on his lap. She leaned back and rested on his chest as he ran thin fingers through her untidy curls.
“What brings you here so late at night surely cannot be the simple need for a visit.” He smiled to hide the concern in his dark eyes.
He blotted at her eyes with a ragged handkerchief “The Nazis were here. In this neighborhood. There was shouting from across the street. They took the elderly couple from that flat.” She glanced at the building across the street from out the window. “Knowledge is common. What would those barbarians do with elderly people at labour camps? This isn’t just tripe. Something horrid is going on, and something tells me the East is being filled with deportees.” Her face became stern, and her eyes focused in, making the young man feel exceedingly uncomfortable.
“I believe it is time for you to eat something in the kitchen and go to sleep, Ita.” He whispered quietly next to her ear, “Go see if your mother will fix you something.” He helped her down and let her scamper off through the living room.
He smiled. Since he had met his young wife, all he wanted was a quiet, peaceful life with her. And now as he watched his child through the doorway in the kitchen where he had sent her to protect her young ears from the troubles of the world and the systematical massacre, he realized it had almost come true.
The older lady smiled. “She’s so sweet. You’re quite lucky.”
The young man smiled. “I am, aren’t I.”
“She looks so much like your wife.” Mrs. Rosenberg paused. “But she has your eyes. Perhaps all of this will be but a vivid nightmare when she’s older.”
He gazed solemnly at the floor. “I surely hope so.”
Weeks turned into months and deportations for ‘labour’ continued, tearing families and friends apart. Surrounding camps in the East, the towns were rank with the fumes that were emanating from mass graves and hellish furnaces.
The young man with his wife and daughter watched as neighbours disappeared from around them.
After a typical day and a rather nice one at that, the youthful family sat in the living room by the fireside. Husband and wife sat side by side on the clean, but rather faded couch sipping tea, watching Ita play with a model horse that her uncle had sent her from America.
Much like the day in the shop several months before, the atmosphere was tranquil and near perfection, for some time. That was, until the young wife nearly dropped her tea cup when the apartment rang with the sound of shouts. She gasped. “That sounds so close!”
Tears welled up in Ita’s dark eyes. “Mommy, I’m scared!” She dropped her toy and ran to the safety of her mother.
“It’s okay, Ita.” She helped her into her lap, hoping it would be true as she hugged her daughter tighter, and searching her husband’s eyes for comfort and answers to unanswerable questions.
Without a word, he rose from the couch and walked across the floor. Pulling back the curtains, he looked out the window, staring down into the dark street. He gasped. Fear ran through his lean body like an electric shock, trembling his hands and making his knees weak. A small graying lady with a carpet bag was being led down the dark street by rough men in gray uniforms with bands bearing the swastika tied to their upper arms. He watched as the soldiers pulled people from their homes, including a young German man and his pretty Jewish wife and their two infant sons.
Thoughts rushed around and built up in his head. Finally, he let go.
Shutting the curtains, he uttered several obstinacies in French and German, cursed the Nazis in Yiddish, and then sighed.

“Will this madness never end? Will we never have


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