From Darkness

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Chapter 20: Farewell

In the early hours of the morning, after the party was over and everyone had left, Ivy and Uli remained awake. They sat by the lit fireplace, drinking coffee and talking. As the sun began to rise, the clouds dispersed and the sky lightened. Dew lingered in the air, creating a dense fog.

“You did never tell me what happened to Julia. Whenever I asked, you always said the same ‘I don’t know,’ but you must have known something,” Ivy said after they spent a minute in silence.

“I really have no idea, Ivy. She just disappeared the same day that you came here. Her entire family just left and abandoned their house,” he said.

“But, were there no rumours at all? No suspicions of what made them leave?”

“Rumour was that her family was Jewish, or part Jewish, and that they fled. There have been some raids as of lately, but back in that time the Jews in Kiel were left alone, so that’s why I don’t think that’s the reason,” Uli replied.

“Julia a Jew? God no, I hate to think I held dear someone so vile… maybe they just needed to leave suddenly, you know? A family emergency, perhaps? This whole time I’ve been trying to figure it out. I guess I never will,” she said.

“That’s all I know. I’m sorry, but I have to go now, I must get back home,” Uli said apologetically.

“When will I see you again? Soon?” Ivy asked.

“Very soon, I can come for your birthday next month,” he kissed her forehead and stood up. He straightened up his steel blue pilot uniform.

“I forgot to mention how nice your uniform is. It makes you look very important,” she smiled.

“I am very important, didn’t you know?” he smiled back.

Ivy walked him to the door. “Are you sure you’re okay to ride back without any sleep? We have an empty guest room you could sleep in,” Ivy said.

“I’m okay, I can sleep when I get home,” he hugged her.

“Goodbye for now, then,” Ivy hugged him back.

“Until I see you again, goodbye,” he went over to his bike which was parked on the curb in front of the house. Uli put on his helmet and started the bike. He waved at Ivy once more and rode off. Ivy stood on the sidewalk, still in her gown, with her coffee cup clutched in her hands. She felt so tired, having stayed up all night. But she also felt so elated to have seen Uli again. His visit had brought some sad news, but the joy of seeing him was stronger than her sadness for poor Gretel.

~

April came and went with rainy showers and blooming tulips. Uli kept his promise and visited Ivy on her birthday. Simone prepared a grand dinner for the family and their guest. Ivy was delighted to have Uli and her parents, grandparents, and brother all at the same table.

“So, Ulrich, what are your thoughts thus far on flying fighter planes? Is it what you had expected?” Grandfather Antoine asked. “It’s more than I expected, sir. I do enjoy it, although I haven’t been in a real fight yet, and I imagine that isn’t enjoyable at all,” Uli answered.

“Not at all. I remember, when I fought in The Great War, I remember feeling excited to get out there on the front, my rifle loaded, ready to shoot down the enemy. But it was not easy or exciting at all, it was…” Antoine cleared his throat, “Regardless, you have nothing to worry about, I’m sure. People don’t want another war, I can tell, and people have to want a war for it to happen.”

“You forgot to mention which side you fought for in The Great War, Opa,” Kristian scowled.

“Kristian, don’t be rude! Have some respect for…” Peter said but was interrupted by Antoine.

“Yes, son, I fought for France. The alternative was going to prison and leaving your grandmother and your mother and uncle to fend for themselves. In war there are no enemies, there are no sides, there is only survival. I hope that’s a lesson you kids never have to learn,” he said.

After the dinner was over and everyone scattered, Ivy went after Kristian as he stepped out on the patio to smoke. “Way to ruin the dinner, you asshole. What is wrong with you lately? Just because you’re leaving doesn’t mean you get to be this way,” Ivy said to him.

“I’m sorry, Ivy, you’re right. I haven’t been myself since Sara… I know leaving will be good for me. It will be a fresh start. Everything here reminds me of her. I have to come home to that empty apartment every day and the memory of her haunts it,” Kristian said to the darkening horizon.

“That job sounds awful though, a prison camp? I thought running the ghettos was awful, but the camps are worse, right? It must be stressful to run one,” she said thoughtfully.

“How do you know so much about them?”

“It’s common knowledge, Kris. Everybody knows about the camps. They’re not a secret, they’re quite obvious. Anyone who does something against our government, against our Führer, goes into one of those. People fear them because unlike a prison, they’re never told when they’ll leave, right?” Ivy said.

“Prisoners leave when they have earned it, through hard work,” he told her.

“I’d like to visit you there sometime, I’m curious to see what it’s like.”

“Well, I hear Commander Himmler takes his daughter with him to the camp visits, I suppose you can come see me sometime.”

“Thanks, Kris. I’m sad that you’ll be leaving once more. This is like when you came here for the first time, all over again,” Ivy said.

Kristian didn’t reply to her but he called Uli whom was walking by at that moment. “There’s something I want to tell the both of you, now that you’re here together,” he said.

“What is it?” Uli asked.

“You see, I bought my apartment years ago. I was wondering if you kids want it. I don’t want to sell it, unless you don’t want it. It’s all yours, Ivy. And Uli, you can have it too if you ever need a place to stay here in Berlin. What do you say?”

Ivy and Uli looked at each other, astonished. “Yes! Of course! How could we say no?” Ivy hugged her brother excitedly.

“Yes, yes. But that doesn’t mean you should leave home before you’re a married woman, keep that in mind, little sister,” he kissed the top of her head.

“Thank you, Kristian,” Uli shook his hand and Kristian patted his back.

“You kids be safe. Watch where you go and whom you talk to. I’m especially referring to you, Ivy. I know the place you and Liesel frequent. It seems you love ignoring my advice, but I’d be careful if I were you,” Kristian walked away, leaving Ivy wondering how on earth he knew about the swing club.

~

On a sunny July morning, with clear blue skies and a soft sea breeze caressing the air, Uli went inside a hot, dingy hangar.

“Good morning, cadets. Settle down now, I understand you’re all eager to fly again, but it will not be as simple as taking off and landing from now on. You will now begin learning maneuvering tactics. You are no good if you cannot maneuver and properly control your plane once airborne,” Sergeant Eichel told the fifty cadets sitting in an empty hangar-turned-classroom. Uli sat at the front, with Ben at his side.

Although they loved to brag about it, they had only flown twice. Flying came more naturally to Uli than it did to Ben, but since both of them managed to take off and land their aircraft without wrecking them, or killing themselves, they passed that part of training. Three boys had failed from their class. Two of them didn’t survive the crash.

“We begin by learning the art of dogfighting. Yes, I say ‘art’ because dogfighting is a thing of beauty once it’s mastered. In a dogfight, your objective is simple: target one specific enemy and take him down before he does you. The dogfight happens at a very close range, and if your target has a less powerful, less maneuverable aircraft, you already have an advantage. Any questions so far?” Sgt. Eichel asked.

A cadet raised his hand. “Sir, how do we know if we’re in a dogfight? If the enemy has targeted us?” he asked.

“Oh, you’ll know, trust me. That plane stalking you, trying to lock his position on you, and well… shooting at you, is usually a good indicator. Which brings me to the first key tactic lesson of dogfighting: don’t be the target. There are many things you can do in battle to avoid being in the enemy’s sight, yet no matter what you do, it will eventually happen. Now, once you have an aircraft on your tail, locked and ready, you must not fly straight.

Increasing your altitude will overheat your engine. Decreasing your altitude is a good distraction but you need to control your aircraft well if you don’t want to finish his job for him. You can hide in the clouds if there is cloud coverage. But you will run out of clouds or crash into another aircraft with such poor visibility. Dogfighting is a game of chase. You might end up chasing each other in a circle. Flying continuously in a circle will rush blood to your head and you’ll pass out.

So, you must be wondering, what do you do in this case? What do you do if the enemy is in your blind spot, he’s locked his sight on you and he isn’t leaving your tail? The answer is simple,” the Sergeant turned around and began drawings planes, dotted lines, and arrows on a large blackboard.

“He talks as if we’re actually going to war, this is ridiculous. What’s the point of learning all this theoretical crap when we could be learning how to fix a broken engine?” Ben whispered to Uli.

“I know, these classroom sessions are such a waste of time,” Uli whispered back.

Uli went home that day to find two police officers there. His neighbour, Bertha, was crying and blowing her nose onto a handkerchief. His heart sank at the realization of what had happened. He had been expecting it for a while now, but he hadn’t been prepared for it. She had lived three months past the doctors’ prediction. He was far from ready to see her body, to say farewell. He ran out the door and didn’t stop running until he reached the beach. The waves lapped angrily in the windy darkness. The night sky looked as though a storm was coming.

He was all on his own now, with Heidi and Trudi to watch over and raise. His choices were to either go to Berlin, where he knew Ivy and her parents would help him and where he could continue to train as a pilot, or go to Munich where his grandparents could raise his sisters. He didn’t want to just leave them there, but he also didn’t want to give up his training. Staying in Kiel all on his own was not an option, yet he didn’t want to burden anyone else with two children that weren’t theirs.

~

“This is for you, it’s a going away gift. Go on, open it,” Ivy handed Kristian a box wrapped in red and gold. He opened it and pulled out a football.

“It’s just like the one I had as a kid,” Kristian smiled.

“Yes! I had to walk all over Berlin to find it, but there is a sports shop on the west end and I found it there,” she said excitedly. “You can play with the other officers on your time off.”

“Thank you, little sister. I gave up my dreams of becoming football star long ago, but I still love it. You take care of yourself, alright?”

“I will. You take care as well. Go make our Vaterland proud, make our Führer proud.”

Kristian hugged his family and waved farewell before getting in the large, black military car that had come to pick him up.

Author’s Note:
At this point, most people (Germans and around the world) knew about the few concentration camps that existed. Within Germany and its newly occupied territories, people of all kinds feared them, because not only Jews, homosexuals, etc, were taken into these camps, but anyone deemed a criminal, a traitor, a rebel, and so on, were taken there as well. As Ivy describes, they really were just prisons. There weren’t any extermination camps yet. Still, they distilled a sense of fear in the general population, keeping everyone silent and blind to what was going on around them.

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