From Darkness

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Chapter 17: Secrets

Kristian remained silent exiting the court and on their way to the car. He didn’t hold Sara’s hand or even look her in the eye. She wasn’t saying a word either, but only because she had never seen him react that way and had no clue what to say.

After driving for a while, he finally broke the silence. “I just don’t understand... Why didn’t you tell me? Why would you not tell me something like that? It’s as though you don’t trust me.”

“Of course I trust you, Kristian! I tried to tell you but I couldn’t find the words... And I wasn’t certain, I only knew that my grandfather’s family had converted, I didn’t know from what,” she said.

“You should have told me what you knew,” he insisted.

“You’re right. I’m sorry... What happens now?” she asked him.

“I don’t know, I need to figure it out,” he said.

She felt relieved to know that he didn’t want to immediately leave her, though she wouldn’t blame him if he did. “What if we call it off? Just not get married?”

“That’s not an option, Sara,” he replied.

“Why not?” she asked him.

“Because... because everyone already knows about the wedding. Everyone, even The Führer. What are we going to say? We got cold feet yet we’ll continue to live together?”

Sara remained silent, and he added “Besides, that lawyer is going to divulge his findings. Sooner or later, people in the SS and the government will know.”

Sara began to weep, she just couldn’t believe her luck. Her tears rolled silently down her cheeks and by the time Kristian noticed, he was already parking the car. “Don’t cry, please. Look...” he cupped her face in one hand, “I love you no matter what. We’ll find a way through this. That lawyer could, for instance, go missing,” he said to her.

“I’m fine,” she forced a smile. He kissed her, then got out of the car and went around to open her door.

“I’m not staying, I’ll spend the night at my parents’ house.” Noticing the guilty look on her face, he added “I just need time to think, that’s all. I’ll come back in the morning.”

~

“Come on, it’s okay!” Liesel dragged Ivy by the hand and insisted it was alright to enter through the dusty, old door in the back of a run-down library. “I don’t know, Liesel, we shouldn’t be doing this...” Ivy stood back.

Liesel had become Ivy’s best friend soon after her arrival in Berlin. She was the daughter of SS General Schweiger and she had a lot in common with Ivy, including their fathers’ friendship and ranks. Liesel had grown up as a spoiled only child, since her only sibling had died soon after birth. Her upper-class family had gone through many struggles during the economic crisis, like most other people. They passionately adored The Führer and felt eternal gratitude for his restoration of their beloved country and wealth.

Liesel was, from an outsider’s perspective, the perfect Third Reich girl. Leader of their Bund Deutscher Mädel segment, daughter of a prestigious Great War veteran, with Nordic-Aryan looks, ancient German bloodlines and a rich family history, she was faithfully devoted to the Führer and the Nazi Party.

Yet Ivy knew her better. She suspected that it was her rich upbringing and rigid way of life that made her so rebellious. For Liesel, secretly breaking from her parents’ firm grip and society’s norms was a way of self-expression. Ivy was terrified at the thought of getting caught, but on the other hand, she desperately wanted to try it.

“Do you want to go in or not? We can’t stand here all day, I promise we won’t get caught, this place is very elite and discreet,” Liesel said.

“Fine, yes, let’s go,” Ivy finally gave in. Liesel clapped her hands excitedly and pulled a string that hung next to the door.

A minute later, a dirty napkin slipped out from underneath the door, and Ivy wondered why on earth Liesel was picking it up. “Shit, I forgot to bring a pen! Do you have something to write with?” she asked. Ivy handed her a pencil she had in her bag and Liesel scribbled something down hastily and passed it back through the door. The door opened and a handsome boy in his Hitlerjugend uniform stood back and welcomed them in. “Heil Hitler”, he winked at them.

Liesel led the way down a dimly-lit, narrow stone staircase, and the further down they went, the louder the music grew. Finally, they reached the bottom. They were deep underground, Ivy could tell. It was very dark and cold, and smelled damp. But as soon as Liesel opened a door, it was as though they were stepping into another world.

Loud jazz filled their ears, the scent of alcohol and smoke their noses, and bright amber lights their eyes. They club was beautiful, so alive and overwhelming. A sign on the wall ironically read ‘Swing Tanzen Verboten.’ There were photographs of American actors and star musicians all over the walls. At least sixty people were dancing, and about thirty others sitting, laughing and drinking. Five musicians played the most wonderful and fun music Ivy had ever heard. Although she had a hard time admitting it to herself, she did quite like it.

“Liesel, this is wrong, we shouldn’t be here...” she grabbed Liesel’s arm and began to head back to the door. “Nonsense, Ivy. Just relax, loosen up a little,” she went to the bar and Ivy having been left behind, alone, had no choice but to go after her.

Liesel turned around with two golden glasses in her hands and said “Drink up, it’s American whisky!” “Liesel, look at the musicians, they are Negroes! This is so wrong, this is a betrayal to our Führer, to our Reich!”

The bartender burst out laughing and Liesel simply smiled while sipping from her glass. “Ivy look around, what do you see?”

“Betrayal?” Ivy crossed her arms.
“No. Take a good look,” Liesel was being asked for a dance but she shooed the guy away.

Ivy sat down next to Liesel and looked around the crowded room. “Negroes playing music, Germans acting like Americans, dancing in a very inappropriate and scandalous manner, drunk kids at 5:30 in the afternoon, and complete betrayal to the Reich. Better?” she asked.

“Happiness, that’s what you see. I’m not asking you to marry the musicians, or even accept them. But their music is wonderful, it’s happy, and you can’t deny that you like it too. I know it’s hard, at first, to just let go and accept it. We’re not betraying our Führer because we are here, having fun. We are good girls, we would die for him, we will marry German men and have German children, and we will teach them our Nazi beliefs. And they will not know, nobody will know, that we love love love swing!”

“But enjoying this is against everything that we believe in, it’s not morally right, it’s indecent,” Ivy protested.

“It’s just fun Ivy, you’re making a big deal out of something that is simple. We are almost seventeen, we’re young, we only get to do this now that we’re young. And yes, it is prohibited, but doesn’t that make it all the more fun?” Liesel sighed, “Anyway, you’re free to go if you so desire. You don’t have to stay here if you don’t want to. And of course, don’t tell anyone about this.”

Ivy felt torn. Deep down she wanted to stay, but she knew that leaving would prove her point, her disapproval of the swing club. “I will stay, this one time, but only because I can’t leave you alone in this place,” she frowned.

~

Kristian didn’t sleep at all that night. He stayed awake thinking of ways he could be with the woman he loved and keep his career. He felt angry at her for being a Mischlinge, then he felt angry at the government and Htiler, then he felt sad and hopeless, and then he came up with a plan. By the time he began to relax, the sun had already risen and he left his bed with no hesitation.

He would first tell Sara about his plan, which was to stage a fatal automotive accident or a murderous theft against the lawyer. His death would buy them some temporary silence, some time, but it wouldn’t conceal their secret forever. The documents would still be archived, and the wedding would still have to be postponed because it could not take place without the license. Buying time was all he needed, because the next step in his plan was to get Sara a new identity with acceptable bloodlines. When his family wondered why her name had changed, he would tell them that her original birth name was the new name, and that Sara Mayer had been given to her by her adoptive parents. Sara wasn’t adopted, but no one else knew that, and her parents were already dead.

His plan was simple, but difficult to carry out. It wasn’t foolproof, but he considered it their best option.

Upon arriving at his small midtown apartment, he found it in total silence and figured she was still sleeping. He went to their bedroom but the bed was made and empty. Where is she...
Kristian checked the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room he knew was empty. She must be out buying bread and milk.

He went back to the bedroom and opened their closet to place his officer’s hat inside, and the closet was half empty. All of her clothes were gone. Her shoes, her hats, her jewellery. All gone.

His heart was beating fast, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He went back to the kitchen and then he saw it. A single note on the table.

Dear Kristian,
I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that I left without saying goodbye, I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you, and I’m sorry that I’m part Jew. I had to leave to protect you, if I had stayed you might have done something stupid for me, and I’m just not worth it. Your career and reputation are more important, I couldn’t let you risk that.

Please don’t look for me, by the time you see this I will be long gone. I know that there is a better woman for you out there, a true German woman. She deserves you, and she is the one you must look for.

I love you,
S. M.

Sara had made it easy for him, she had removed his options. He crumpled the note in his hand and fell to his knees, crying.

Author’s Note: Swing Tanzen Verboten, Reichskulturkammer translates to Swing Dancing Banned, Reich Chamber of Culture.

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