Elissa stared at the American Army Captain through tired eyes. Her hair was plastered to her head from sweating under the intense lights. A slick sheen of perspiration coated her aching body, causing her light blue dress to stick in uncomfortable places. The five hours she’d spent in the interrogation room had taken her from fear to desperation and left her with only resolution. She ran her tongue across dry cracked lips and let out a moan.
“Please, Sir, may I have some water?” she pleaded in a thick German accent.
He stood from his chair and glared down at her, then shook his head and walked around the table to where she sat.
“I’m going to leave the room again. When I return, I’ll have a tall cool glass of water. If you tell me what I want to know, you may have it.”
He strode out of the room and slammed the door. Elissa folded her arms and laid her head on them.
The warm summer breeze ruffled the starchy lace on the dress, scratching Elissa’s skin. She fidgeted and looked at her mother imploringly.
“Mamma, please can I take this dress off? It itches, besides, I look like a Hummel figurine.”
“You think because you are ten years old you are too grown to listen to your mamma?” she replied angrily. “Do you know what an honor it is to be chosen out of all the children in the village to give flowers to Der Führer?”
She stared down at the white lace socks and black leather shoes they had borrowed from the Butcher’s wife. They were two sizes too small; her feet oozed out of the top like too much sausage in a small casing. Elissa walked to the sofa to sit down in hopes of getting blood circulating to her toes and just as she was suspended between standing and sitting,Mamma gasped and jumped toward her.
“No! Don’t sit down! You’ll wrinkle the dress!”
Startled, Elissa lost her balance and almost fell over. She reached for the arm of the sofa and righted herself just in time.
“Elissa, can’t you ever do what I tell you? Must you always fight me?”
Mamma paced back and forth wringing her hands and scowling.
“I’m sorry, Mamma, but how much longer do we have to wait? My
legs hurt and I’m hot and sweaty. Can we go now?”
Mamma shook her head and left the room, muttering.
Elissa shaded her eyes against the August sun. It was so hot, steam rose off of the street and people in the crowd were dabbing themselves with handkerchiefs. Trickles of sweat rolled down from Elissa’s armpits. She forced herself to keep her arms tightly by her side so Mamma wouldn’t see the stains she was sure were there. The bouquet of roses in her hand left pricks from the thorns. If she bled on the dress, Mamma would surely beat her and lock her in the root cellar when they got home.
She ran through the instructions given to her over and over to help keep her mind off of fainting from the heat. Just as Elissa turned to ask Mamma how long it would be, the band began to play and cheers emanated from the throng of onlookers. She turned and gazed at the sea of people before her, sure they were all staring at her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mamma glaring at her and motioning with her hands that she should stand up straight. Elissa felt anger for Der Führer at having to suffer through the heat just to give him flowers.
The school choir stood on another platform next to the one she would soon ascend and as they began singing the heat and blazing sun didn’t matter to her anymore. Elissa loved music and the choir’s perfect harmony brought a smile to her lips. When the song ended, the mass roared then quieted abruptly. All eyes were raised to the platform and the silence was broken by thunderous applause and shouting. Like mechanical drones, people raised their right arms before them, hands flat.
“Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler!” resonated throughout the Village Square.
She turned, facing the platform and gazed at the shadowy figure above her. The sun hung in the sky behind him, casting a halo-like glow around his body, blurring her vision and bringing tears to her eyes. She squinted trying to adjust to the bright light. Elissa nervously switched the flowers to her other hand and looked down. There were red dots in her hand from the thorns that had pierced her skin. She glanced around fretfully looking for a place to wipe her hand, when she felt Mamma push her toward the stairs. Placing her swollen foot on the bottom step, she grabbed the railing and with each step she left a red mark on the splintery wood. Just as she reached the top, she wiped her hand on the back of her dress and slowly raised her eyes to the man Mamma said was the Savior of Germany. He smiled down at her, took the flowers and kissed her cheek. Piercing eyes stood out from his small round face and she noticed a speck of food in his uneven teeth. Elissa did not like him. There was a sense of foreboding that tickled the pit of her stomach. He took her chin into his hand and raised her face higher, then leaned over, whispered something to her and kissed her cheek again. She shuddered and took a step back as he raised his arm to her and clicked his heels together.
“Heil Hitler, mein Liebchen.”
Slowly she raised her pale arm. “Heil Hitler,” she replied.
The bile rose in her throat as she descended the stairs and walked into her mother’s arms. Mamma whisked her away from the steps pushing through the tight crowd. They finally reached an opening and Elissa felt she could breathe again.
“Mamma – “
“Shh,” Mamma hissed as she hit Elissa’s arm. “Listen to Der Führer.”
When the speech was over Mamma bent down, smiled at her and asked, “What did Der Führer say to you?”
“He told me I was the future of a pure Germany. What does that mean?”
Mamma smiled, grasped Elissa’s hand and walked with her head held high. She didn’t notice the red streak on the back of the dress.
To Be Continued…
*****© 2013 R. MonaLeza*****