by Uma Deverakonda
“Come! Quickly! Next to me Aische!”, she beckons, patting the spot beside her. I scoop up Amelia and slide in. A square of watery light shines in through the window and illuminates all the specks of dust swirling around us. A grin tugs at my lips, but that too is snatched away as Mama hastily pulls the curtains together. We all huddle in a corner.
It had been less than a year since Hitler emerged, but green police swarmed. My neighborhood became a land of nightmares. School, a site of blood and murder. Mama closed her flower shop to go into hiding. Mama’s friend, Yelka, took us in. We spent the month in her old cellar that was concealed by shrubbery and was dismantling.
The cracks of light sprouting from the corners of the window reflected off my worn Star of David and created a small band of light on a wooden plank. Amelia started to squeal as she flexed her stubby little fingers. The rotting old boards that built up the cellar groan as the wind howls through its many cracks. Then, through the noise, we hear a sound.
The footsteps of an approaching person. But these weren’t Yelka’s footsteps that were usually light and hit the brush in irregular patterns. These were heavy, pressured steps that shook the ground as they fell in a uniform pattern.
I immediately knew this was a Nazi soldier. But how did he find this old shed? It looked like part of the overgrown vegetation that surrounded it. I quiet Amelia and press myself farther into the corner.
“Mama! He’s coming here!!”, I whisper, not daring to rise another octave.
“It’s ok Aische. Yelka wouldn’t...”, she attempts to sound calm. But her muscle is tensed and stiff. Then there‘s Yelka’s voice.
“3000 Marks, nothing less. They’re Jews!”, she calls.
“Yes yes!”, replies the Nazi’s rough voice.
Horror swells in my heart. It dawns on me. Yelka sold us out. My vision fogs in hopelessness. I can’t breathe, move, or say a thing. Mama’s sharp voice cuts through.
“Go! Now! Out the opening behind the red board there! Take Amelia!”, she is shoving me out the corner.
“I’ll follow behind!”, she commands.
The next thing I know, we are running for our lives through a meadow. The wind whipping our skirts against our shins. After what feels like ages, we make it to a cabin in the woods. We enter the creaking shack to catch our breath.
“W..we can’t stay here f..for long!”, Mama gasps.
Tears stream my cheeks and off my chin. Amelia, exhausted, nods off. Mama bends down and pulls me into her chest.
“Why?”, I sob.
“She was desperate baby.”, Mama weeps.
“Where are we to go? We’ve run out of people to trust! What now?”, I demand.
“We leave in a couple and stay at father’s old place. We’ll survive. Don’t worry baby.”, she maps the plan.
I nod. This was life now. And there was nothing I could do.