Gabe - FifteenA Chapter by emily
Well, I never would have expected to be excited for the end of a weekend. But bleeding Christ has it been an awkward few days. I thought it couldn’t possibly get much worse than the uncomfortable moment between Jim and Hersch in the dorm; was I ever wrong. Neither of them will give me or Erich the whole story, but as I understand it Hersch caught Jim doing something with Rebecca out in the courtyard that night.
If I ever wanted proof that Hersch was dangerous, there it was. He glared at Jim like he was planning to poison him for the whole of Saturday and Sunday. I camped out in the music building for as long as I could. God knows where Erich escaped to, but we both tried to spend as little time as possible with them. Rebecca somehow managed to make herself invisible, which I lamented a little. I really liked having her around.
I can’t say I had an opinion on whatever happened. I’m so inexperienced with girls, they wouldn’t have taken my advice in a million years anyway. Erich thought Jim is an idiot, but that might just be because he couldn’t imagine any regular guy going after a Jew like her. More than anything, we were just dumbfounded as to how that beanpole-shaped American could get a girl like Rebecca.
Much to my exasperation, the situation still wasn’t any better back in the dorm on Monday. Spending time in separate classes apparently only gave them more time to plan each other’s murders. And they thought Erich would be the first one to kill someone! Ha! So it’s safe to say that Erich and I were ready to get far, far away from the two of them by the time we had Fire Warden duty on Tuesday night.
It was cold as hell up on the roof that night, and Erich and I were shivering under our flimsy school-issued blazers and scarves. “F**k!” He exclaimed, taking his usual spot propped up against the chimney. “Shouldn’t it be getting warmer by now? It must be halfway through April!”
I snorted. “Not in England. Besides, it’s warmer up here than it is down there, what with those two shooting ice at each other all night.”
Erich laughed " it always felt so good to make him laugh " then suddenly pulled himself to his feet. “Oh, goddamn it, I almost forgot.” He dug in one of the buckets of sand we had brought up and produced a pile of rumpled clothes. I looked at him confusedly. “It’s a uniform,” he held it out to me with his eyes cast uncomfortably down. “About your size I think. I-I saw you only have one now, since you ripped up the other one.”
I just looked at him for a long minute, astounded by his real display of kindness. Erich obviously wasn’t comfortable with doing nice things, and I watched the conflict play across his face. It was the anger inside that made him so nasty fighting with something that was buried even deeper: compassion. I had never seen anything like it in him.
He got fed up with waiting then, probably thinking that he was starting to look stupid. “If you don’t want it I…” he started irately.
“No I do!” I insisted awkwardly, taking the uniform from him. “Uh, where did you get it?”
Erich’s mouth turned up a little at the edges, not a real smile, but a confident smirk. “Swiped it off one of the Wankers when they went in for showers. Too bad I couldn’t stick around. I would have loved to see the look on one of those b*****d’s faces when he realized he didn’t have anything to get back to the dorm in.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “Well, thanks, I guess.” It was all I could say without fear of provoking him. But I was beaming on the inside. Erich had done something genuinely nice for me, and to me that meant one thing: he was getting over whatever had happened to him in Germany. And that made me happy for him. I wished, again, that I could be like him, that I could be moving on.
After that, we returned to our usual spots and typical silence. I sprawled out on my back with the new uniform under my head, smiling up at the sky. “You supposed we’ll get any action tonight?” I asked ironically. The futility of the whole job had sunk in a long time ago, and the idea that we might actually save anything from a bombing had become almost a joke.
“Don’t count on it,” Erich muttered over his cigarette. If he said anything else, I didn’t hear it. I dozed off looking up at the sky with a sweater vest under my head.
I woke up to the sound of the siren, so loud and so sudden I shot to my feet without remembering where I was and practically slipping off the roof. It was the bomb sirens again, like in London. They had never gone off here, not once since we arrived at Wellington’s. This was bad. I had to get off the roof; that was my first instinct. F**k being a Fire Warden. We were going to die if we stayed there.
I whipped around, scanning the roof for Erich. When my eyes finally fell on him, he was frozen, sitting like a statue against the chimney with his knees pulled up to his chest. Air raids, I remembered, he couldn’t handle them. Last time, last time he had run a mile into a strange city just to get away. This time he was frozen. The one thing in the world that scared Erich, and there I was to see it again. He would kill me for sure this time, for knowing his weakness. But he had saved my life, and I knew I had to get him off that roof.
“Erich!” I called, moving over to him as fast as I could without toppling off the roof. That was when I realized that the noise wasn’t just the sirens. Above us, the screech of German planes flying low over the school was deafening. From where I stood, the lights looked close enough to brush the tops of the trees. Get Erich off the roof. “Come on!” I grabbed his arm, but he didn’t budge. “Erich, we have to get down!” He shook his head violently and started to shake. “Erich!” I cried, panicked, over the noise. “You have to come with me. Come on,” I extended my hand. “Trust me.”
He looked, terrified, at the hand, took a few shaky breaths, then clutched my wrist. I pulled him to his feet and half-dragged him over to the fire escape. Bloody hell, the guy was heavy. I went down the ladder behind him, we made it to the ground, made it to the basement door, made it through the hallway and into the dorm.
The sight of Hersch and Jim huddled in their bunks was such a reassuring sight, I practically cried. We were all okay. “What the f**k is going on?” Jim yelled, even though it was much quieter down in the basement.
“It’s an air raid!” I called back, shifting Erich’s weight onto my shoulder. “Get out of the bunks and over by the boiler.”
Hersch nodded in agreement; he had been through this plenty of times, too. The four of us dashed to the corner behind the boiler, crushing so close to each other there was no space to speak of. I thanked God right then for them. Alone, we all would have broken down during something like this. But we had each other, and that made me feel safer than I had in ages.
I had to keep Erich close to me. What choice did I have? Neither of the other guys knew how he was about air raids. Then there was a vibration that seemed to shake the whole room, and I knew that the bombs were falling. Erich buried his face in my shoulder, almost like a child, and started shaking again. Hersch and Jim didn’t seem to notice at all, with their eyes squeezed shut and their heads buried in their knees.
I don’t know what possessed me to do it. Just at that second, I thought about how much hope I had had for him just a few hours ago, and the thought of those tiny steps forward being ruined by this stupid air raid was too much to take. If Erich couldn’t handle being reminded of his past, what chance did I have?
I wanted him to know he was okay, and I wanted him to know I was the one with him. I turned and whispered, softly, reassuringly, into his ear. “You’re all right,” I said, “It’s all right. You’re safe now.” Without really thinking about it, I inhaled deeply. The familiar, plain smell of Erich made me shiver. “You’re not at home now. You’re here with me.”
Erich clasped my wrist. “Don’t leave,” he breathed. “Bitte lassen Sie”
I swallowed hard against the sudden lump in my throat. “I won’t. I’m here.”
He went silent and still again, then, and I was left with no one. With nothing else to do, I reached for my rosary. Clutching it in my fist, I began the first prayer that came to mind, the one I had blubbered through over and over in that dark cellar on that last, horrible day in Italy. The one Leo had taught me in Italian:
“Ave Maria, piena di grazia, il Signore è con te. Tu sei benedetta fra le donne e benedetto è il frutto del tuo seno, Gesú. Santa Maria, Madre di Dio, prega per noi peccatori, adesso e nell'ora della nostra morte. Amen. Ave Maria, piena di grazia, il Signore…”
And then, as quickly as it had come, the sirens stopped. After a few long minutes of anxious silence, Jim, of course, was the first one to talk.
Guys,” he said weakly, “I bit my tongue.”
© 2011 emily
Added on November 5, 2011
Last Updated on November 5, 2011
Sons of Thunder: Part One
AboutHello all! My name is Emily, I'm 18, I am definitely not at home in this tiny MN town, and soon I will be the most famous author my generation. I go to Barnes and Noble to see where my book will sit .. more..