Hey friends, welcome back to Pen & Ink! I will be sharing the second place winner of the short story contest with all of you today. First, I’ll announce who it is, then I will share the winner’s story and what I liked about it.
So here we go!
Okay, okay, fine, I won’t make you scroll as long as last time. Here is the winner:
Amelia wrote such an amazing story full of good characters, suspense, and themes. Her story was very powerful and kept me engaged the whole time I was reading it. And she totally incorporated the prompt perfectly into the story!
So without further ado, let’s read her story!
The Fault to Be Forgiven
We deserved death. Some things could change, but this could not. I knew this fact from the very beginning, but somehow it always had a way of escaping me.
The car rattled us like a child shaking coffee beans in a jar. I kept bumping against the elderly woman to my left, who moaned every time I hit her shoulder. I tried to steady my feet on the wooden floor, but it didn’t help much.
A loud thud sounded in the car, and I gasped. A woman had collapsed. I wanted to be out of here. Memories dove in and out of my mind, like a needle weaving its way through fabric. The German woman who had screamed that Abba, my father, had physically hurt her when all he’d done was accidentally bump into her. Her poor child, clinging onto her mother’s dress in fear as the soldiers dragged Abba away. To them, we were monsters. Despicable, unworthy monsters in a society that wanted us wiped off the face of the earth.
They were the monsters. Why should we have to pay for the bitterness of Fuehrer? Why should we have to be tormented? What if I never saw Abba again?
The car stopped rattling. It was still. So dreadfully still—until the door opened and soldiers yelled their nasty words at us. The camps.
I held my breath when Eema, my mother, and I came out of the car. The stench was unbearable. Already, thick clouds were emitted from strange buildings off to the sides. Soldiers mocked and fired at random. One advanced to Eema and poked her with his rifle.
All of a sudden, I noticed a forlorn little girl crouching behind another woman, her fingers in her mouth and tears running down her cheeks. It was the child of the German woman who had falsely accused us. I gasped, then screamed when a soldier slapped me and yelled at me. But the sting in my cheek didn’t keep me from staring at the child. It was her. The same dark curls; the same large, brown eyes; the same terrified look on her face. Somehow, in the crowd, she’d been swept into the box car with us. And she wasn’t even Jewish.
I eyed the soldier overshadowing us with his beady eyes. Please look away, please look away…As soon as his head turned, I locked eyes with the girl and motioned for her to come.
Eyes wide, she skittered forward and cowered behind me when the soldier turned and glared at her. Eema’s eyes were wide when she saw the little girl holding my hand.
The soldier advanced towards Eema. “Is she your child?” Eema paused, and I felt my hand turn clammy over the little girl’s hand. If Eema said no, the soldier would think she was lying. But if she said yes… Eema held her chin up just a bit.
“She is not mine,” she replied.
The soldier stared, first at Eema, then at the girl. “Is she a Jew?”
At the slight shake of my head, the soldier lunged forward and slapped me. I screamed again.
He yelled at me to be quiet before turning back to Eema. “Well, silly woman, tell me: is she a Jew?”
Eema hesitated. “No.” I held my breath again at the silence that took place. Lord, let him believe us. She can’t die here.
“Then why does she look Jewish?”
“I do not know.” Eema’s voice was as steady as she could manage. “She is the daughter of a neighbor. But her mother is not Jewish. Her father must be different, but not Jewish.”
The soldier didn’t budge. The side of his mouth twitched, his eyes glazed with apathy. Then he yelled for another soldier. Both stared at the girl and murmured to each other until the soldier who had spoken to Eema directed his conversation to her again. “She looks Jewish.”
“No, no, please!” I instantly stepped in front of the girl. I didn’t care if I was slapped again. “She’s not Jewish. Don’t hurt her. Please.”
My heart raced when the soldier clenched his fist and glowered at me. “You have no proof.”
“But her mother is not Jewish. I’ve seen her myself. I’ve never met her father, but he must not be Jewish either. Otherwise, her mother wouldn’t have sent us here.” No, no, no, why did I say that?
Suddenly, the soldier’s fist released its grip ever so slightly. “Her…mother sent you here?” I nodded. “And yet you…You don’t want her child dead?”
Gulping, I shook my head violently. Lord, just let me die instead of her.
Wordlessly, he nodded and motioned for the child to come to him. When she refused, he said something in German to her.
I watched as the little girl’s eyes lit up, and she hurried to take his hand. He averted his gaze to Eema. Please, Lord, please… Suddenly, he barked at two other soldiers. Before I realized it, they had pulled Eema and me aside but had ordered everyone else to move towards the buildings with the steam coming out of them.
The soldier we’d spoken to looked at us again. “Free them.”
I gasped and looked at Eema, who could only stare at him in disbelief. “You…you will do what to us? We are Jews. You are not–”
The soldier held up his hand. “Her mother sent you here, but you chose not to kill her. Go.” He pointed to the other two soldiers before turning his back towards us. “Go! Or else I’ll change my mind.”
With another gasp, I slipped my hand in Eema’s. When I turned around to look, I saw the little girl smile and wave to me. I waved back. Forgiveness had saved us—just as it always had.