Chapter 12: Tears
Uli turned the key only to find that the door was already unlocked. How strange... he thought, since his mother was on her way to Munich and his father was working a few towns away. Father had gotten a well-paying job in the project of the Autobahn’s construction. Uli had been looking forward to having his house all to himself for two weeks, with occasional visits from his mother’s friends Elsa and Simone, who’d also bring him food.
“Hallo?” he stepped inside and when he reached the kitchen he saw Mother at the table. She had her face in her crossed arms, a vodka bottle open and lying next to a filled glass. She was sobbing, her chest rising and falling rapidly. “Mother, what’s the matter?” he urgently asked her.
Gretel looked up, her face red and covered in tears, but she didn’t say anything. Uli pulled out a chair and sat next to her, grabbing both her hands in his as he said “Mother, you can talk to me you know. I’m not Father, I’ll listen to whatever you have to say. Tell me what’s wrong, why are you crying?”
“Uli, you are such a sweet boy. I’m afraid I don’t want to trouble you with my burdens son, I couldn’t do that to you.”
“Please Mother, I want to know. Whatever it is, I can handle it, I’m not a child anymore.”
“I know you’re not a child anymore, the Reich is making sure of that,” she sobbed.
“So, what is it? What is troubling you? Did somebody bother you? Did a Jew bother you?”
“No, no. If I tell you, you have to promise not to tell your father, at least for now.”
“I promise I won’t tell him,” Uli said.
“I’m awaiting a... I’m with child. Just found out this morning.”
“That’s great news Mother! So why were you crying? You’re a married woman!” Uli said, confused.
“Because I worry how your father will react to this.” And also, I don’t want to give your father another child, she thought.
“Nonsense Mother, Father will be happy and proud, I’m sure of it. You have nothing to worry about,” Uli told her.
“I have lots to worry about, you know how your father is,” Gretel took a deep breath and drank the vodka.
“When are you going to tell Father?”
“I don’t know Uli, I don’t even know if I’ll keep...” she halted her sentence.
“Keep? The baby? You will keep it, right?” he asked, concerned.
“We’ll see Uli, we’ll see. I’m going to head out to Münich tonight, I couldn’t do it this morning because the news of the pregnancy... well, they rattled me,” Gretel told him.
“Mother, you must keep the baby, he or she is my brother, or my sister, it’s the right thing to do. You’ll be betraying the Reich, you’ll betray our Führer, if you don’t keep the baby,” Uli said.
She poured herself another glass.
After Gretel left on the 8:00 pm train to her parents’ home in the Bavarian capital, Uli went to Ivy’s house. The walk to her house was lengthy, but in the warm and breezy early June air it was pleasant, even comforting. The sun was still shining bright, although it was leaning towards the horizon, preparing itself for a colorful sunset.
When he got there, Peter told him that Ivy wasn’t home. She was at the beach with some friends.
Uli took the most direct path from her house to the beach, hoping that Ivy would be along that stretch of the coast. Once he passed the last house and reached the sandy, tall grass, he saw a group of people near the water. As Uli approached them, he spotted Ivy, already walking towards him.
“Well, thanks for the invitation,” he said to her.
“Come on Uli, it wasn’t like that. They all came to my house a while ago and we headed straight down here. I was going to go get you, I swear,” she hugged him.
“Look Ivy I don’t really care, I don’t like these people anyway. I just wanted to tell you something, but it can wait,” he let go of her and started walking away.
“Uli wait, stay please! Harald managed to get us some beers, are you going to pass up beer?” she smiled as he halted, then turned around.
“How many beers?” he asked her.
“More than enough for everyone. Come, I also have something to tell you, and this cannot wait,” she took his hand.
Ivy and Uli sat down on the sand a good distance from the others. They were far enough that they could still see them, but not distinguish who was each person. A beer bottle in each hand, Uli drank from his while Ivy just stared at her bottle. “I don’t really like beer, it tastes so bitter.”
“You’ll like it someday, maybe when you’re older,” Uli told her.
“Maybe. What is it you have to tell me?” she asked him.
“You tell me first, you said it couldn’t wait,” he answered.
“No really, you go first, please,” Ivy dreaded what she had to tell him.
“Alright. My mother is pregnant,” Uli said.
“Oh Uli, that is so wonderful!” Ivy cheerfully clapped her hands together.
“Yeah, it is. But she’s worried about Father’s reaction. Honestly? I’m worried too. He can be so despicable.”
“I think he’ll be pleased to have another child, what father wouldn’t?” Ivy comforted him.
The sun began to set, sending waves of gold, orange and red across the sky and the ocean. The sky was darkening quickly, the light blue opposite the sun turning into a deep violet.
“I hope Mother will be alright, and not make any rash decisions while in Münich.”
“When is Mr. Werner coming back from work?” she asked.
“In two weeks, just about the same time Mother returns. It’s your turn now,” Uli said.
“I don’t know how to tell you... I’ve spent the last two days trying to figure out a way... I guess there is no other way than, well, my father accepted a new job. He’s now a Gruppenführer of the SS,” Ivy said.
“That’s good news Ivy, you must be so proud! I envy your father,” Uli told her.
“Yes it’s great Uli, but there is one problem... His office isn’t here, it’s in Berlin. We’re moving...” Ivy looked down, the reality of the situation finally dawning on her. Tears began to swell in her eyes, she couldn’t look up at him.
“It’s okay Ivy, it’s fine. Look, look at me,” he tilted her chin up and looked into her watery eyes. “It’s okay, we will still be friends, we can write to each other, even visit each other. Berlin isn’t that far from here.”
“Berlin is pretty far Uli, it’s not like you can take a bike ride over to there,” Ivy said.
“No, but by train or even by car it’s not far at all. The Authobahn between here and Berlin is almost finished,” Uli said, wiping the tears off her cheeks.
“You give me your word you’ll write? You promise that you will write to me? No matter how much times goes by? No matter how much distance is between here and there? No matter how many new friends you make or how many girls you meet?” Ivy asked.“You have my word. I’ll write to you as soon as I read your letters. You must also promise you won’t ever stop writing, Ivy,” Uli replied.
“I promise. Maybe... maybe you’re right, we’ll be able to visit each other too,” she began to feel better.
“We will, I know it. When are you moving?” Uli asked.
“In a month,” she took a sip of the beer.
“Okay,” he nodded.
Maybe it was the dizziness and courage from the beer, or maybe it was the fact that he knew he didn’t have too many chances left. It didn’t matter. It didn’t even matter if her friends saw. He grabbed her face in both hands and kissed her. He kissed her softly, and when he pulled back he said to her, “When I’m old enough, I’m going to leave here too and come live with you in Berlin. I bet it’s much more fun than windy, old Kiel. We could have our own house and travel the world like we’ve always wanted.”
“I would love that, Uli. I’ll hang on to that idea of our future. But anyway, it’s not goodbye for now, we still have one more month,” Ivy smiled.