Recap: The doctor comes and tells Bayla that she has to encourage Sophie to exercise or Sophie will lose the ability to walk. Bayla feels guilty, as she is only planning to stay a few more days in France.
The next evening, it was a regular summer evening. Tante Aimee was busy with crocheting a tablecloth. She sat comfortably near Sophie and me. We were playing checkers. I still hadn’t gotten up the courage to tell Sophie or Tante Aimee that we were planning to leave in three days. And I still hadn’t gotten Sophie to tell me about her accident or to do her exercises.
Feter Dan and Shimon Zev had just left for Minchah. Nanette ran frantically into the living room. She was twisting the skirt of her apron. “Turn on the radio, Madame. It’s terrible news.”
Tante Aimee looked up from her crocheting and said, “Ce’n’est pas correct.”
Nanette bowed her head. “Je regretted, Madame.” She slunk out of the room.
“What is it?” Sophie asked.
Tante Aimee shook her head. “Let’s wait for Tattie and Shimon Zev to return. I will not turn it on now. Sometimes people overreact to things.” She spoke calmly, but I noticed her hand was trembling.
I felt my heart pounding. What could it be that sent Nanette into the room like that? She was so upset. Sophie was waiting for my move. I tried the best I could to concentrate, but it was hard to think about checker moves when I could hear Nanette’s frantic voice from a minute ago. What could it mean?
I thought of my mother’s words from two weeks ago when she urged me to stay in France because things weren’t safe right now. Could it be connected? No, Hashem, please don’t let it be. I knew you couldn’t daven for something that already happened to not happen, but I asked Hashem to please let me not hear any bad news about Poland.
When Feter Dan and Shimon Zev returned from shul, it was clear from their pale faces and the way they were whispering that I was going to hear bad news. Tante Aimee went over to her husband and whispered. He turned towards the bookshelf and flicked on the radio. And that’s when I heard it. An announcer shouted, “September 1, 1939 – Poland was attacked by Germany. Poland is at war.”
I jumped up and ran to Shimon Zev. “No, no!” I was sobbing, and he held me tight.
The reporter continued with more details. We could hear shouting and planes flying overhead. “It’s total chaos now,” the reporter said in a breathless voice. “The Luftwaffe is attacking, and so are the other branches of the German military. They are bombarding us on the ground. The Polish army is fighting back. We will see what will happen. People are fleeing to Warsaw.”
“Tante Aimee motioned her husband to turn off the radio.
She ran to me and tried to calm me. “We don’t know the results yet. Poland is fighting back.”
“Please, can we call my parents?”
“Yes, yes,” Tante Aimee said. She dialed and waited. I was holding my breath. The large grandfather clock in the corner ticked loudly. Minutes passed. “The line is not working now,” she said. “We will try later.”
I felt like a balloon with all the air escaping. I had to speak to Mama and Papa to be sure they were all safe.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.