After this chapter I'm all done! Haha yeah and I'm gonna do some major revising and add stuff and take stuff out and…yeah so I hope you enjoy the last chapter! Haha I hope the ending isn't too stupid…I'll probably change it a little when I revise it all. This is quite longer than my usual chapters. But I'm gonna go back and make them all longer, maybe combine some…I just wanted to thank everyone for your reviews, positive and negative. Especially for the criticism…that helps A LOT!
Chapter 52: Start Over
I could still hear the English-speaking nurses talking as I turned the corner. I did not even bother to try and decipher what they were talking about.
I walked down the quiet hallway, and when I was halfway down it the nurses' voices faded away. The only sounds I heard now were the sounds of my shoes stepping on creaky floorboards and very faint whimpering from some of the rooms.
It was kind of an eerie place. It reminded me of the living quarters at the camp that I shared with Lukas and Jakob. It was small and narrow, and spiders made webs in the corners.
I thought I heard footsteps so I quickly turned around, my knife pointed out. Being one of Hitler's soldiers taught you to always watch you're back, because you never know who is watching you. Trust no one.
The walls were bare, except for a small piece of paper that was scribbled on in English. There were names on it, and above it read something. I ran my finger across the foreign words, trying to remember anything. I gave up on it. Damn English, too hard of a language to read.
"Sweetie, come here!" I looked back and I saw the nurse that gave me the ride here was signaling me to come over to her. Luckily she spoke German; maybe she could tell me what the signs said. "Now, what are you doing over here," she said, taking my hand, "looking for someone?"
"Yeah," I said. "My girlfriend might be her. No, she is here. I can feel it. She's the only one I have left. I need to find her. I need to do something right with my life. I've screwed up everything so far."
She just looked at me and sighed. "I have to check you before you are able to walk around the hospital, sweetie."
"Here, I'm sorry. Take everything. Here's my knife, here's my bag—I'll empty it out for you." I turned my bag upside down allowing everything that I collected from over the past year at war to fall out on the floor. The glass broke on my picture frame of my family. I quickly picked it up, cutting my finger on a piece, and threw it away.
"Aw, I'm sorry, hun. Maybe I can find you a new one?"
"No, it's okay," I said quickly. "Broken glass for my broken family; they all died, I'm sure of it."
Another nurse came over to me with a bandage and wrapped my finger up in it. "I'm sorry about your family," she said in perfect German.
"Your German is fantastic," I said.
She laughed at me. "Yeah, it better be, seeing I am German."
I felt stupid. "Oh, well, I just figured you were American, because she is," I said, pointing at the American nurse. "Anyway, these are just pictures, and this is just a memory of my house. I lived in Dresden, and my house was bombed, so I wanted something to remember my old life by, you know?"
The German nurse started to feel me up and down. "Just making sure you're not hiding anything under your shirt."
I stepped back. "Here," I said, lifting up my shirt. I pulled it off, wearing my white wife-beater underneath it. This was a waste of time. Elsa might be dying now. I had to get to her right away. I handed my shirt over to them. "So I can't hide anything." I picked up my bag and up my stuff back in (except the things they took away, like my knife). "See, this is Elsa," I said holding up the picture. "Is she here?"
The American nurse paused. "There is an Elsa on the second floor, I think. I don't know if she's yours, since she is nothing but skin and bones. You will not be able to recognize her by looking at her and then the picture."
"Thank you!" I shouted as I ran down the hallways. She had to be here, she just had to be!
I found the steps and swung around the railing. Tripping on the first step, I laughed. Then I looked down at my bleeding elbow. "Eh, I've been through worse." I looked again. "Yeah, I need to take this a little easier. I mean, I can't just run around like a mad man in this hospital. People are trying to recover."
I slowly stood up and walked slowly up a few more steps. "Aw, screw this!" I ran up that damn staircase like my life depended on it. Like my life would end if I did not reach the top by a certain time.
I slowed down my pace and carefully examined each room. I did not even bother to look at the names. What if they mixed up Elsa's name with someone else's room?
I looked at the sign: Fritz. Fritz, Elsa…it could easily be confused.
I peeked into the room to see a young boy asleep on a small white bed. I slowly walked into the room and looked around to see if anyone else was in there. I walked over to the bed. Fritz's leg was amputated.
He wore a uniform. His name was German. I bet he was a soldier. He deserved that.
I left the room and a nurse came around the corner. She looked my in the eye, screamed, and then drop a pencil and notepad that she was carrying. "What are you doing here young man? No one is supposed to be in here," she said very quickly in English.
"Uh, sorry I…"
"A GERMAN SOLDIER!" She spoke German! "You listen here boy, you get out of here—this hospital is for people in help. I don't see how a German got in here."
I pointed my thumb back at Fritz's room. "What about Fritz? Isn't he a Kraut, too?"
She bent down and picked up what she had dropped. "Don't be silly, he is a Jew." She lightly pushed me out of the way and walked into Fritz's room.
"What do you mean you can't be a German and a Jew at the same time? My girl friend Elsa Gellman is both German and Jewish-and I'm sure she's damn proud of it!" I clenched my fingered into a fist and then the nurse laughed at me.
"I'm kidding with you, sweetie. And if you are looking for Elsa Gellman, she's a few rooms down."
"Yeah, sure you're kidding you Amer-what did you just say about Elsa Gellman?"
She walked over to Fritz's bed and looked at him. She looked me. "I said that she's a few rooms down. I was just with her. Then I saw you. You can't go see her; she's not doing so well. I don't think she's going to make it." She continued to examine Fritz when I ran off. "Hey! Get back here! You can't go to other rooms without supervision!"
Ignoring her words, I ran down the hallway, looking at the names on the door. "Uh...Josef Levy, Karl Judd, and Elsa Gellman…yeah this is it."
I swung the door open and it made an extremely loud noise as it hit the wall behind it. "Sorry," I whispered. I closed it and locked it so the nurses could not come in. I walked over the bed labeled "Gellman" and sighed in relief.
Someone I loved survived this war.
"Elsa? Elsa, do you remember me? Wake up." I looked down at her. She opened her eyes and just stared at me.
I jumped back a little, when I finally actually looked at her. Her brown eyes were sunken in. They had no expression in them. It was just a void. Her once smiling face was now as thin as ever and just skin on bones. Her long black hair was shaved off. Her right arm was over the blankets. Her number from the concentration camp still in vibrant black on her boney arm.
"It's Kurt, Elsa. Remember?"
She opened her mouth, but nothing came out of it. Then she tried again and said "How could I forget you?" in a small quiet voice.
The smile on my face must have been ear to ear. "Yeah, I could never forget you either, Elsa. Oh, you were always so loving and caring and just an all around great person. You were—"
"Were. Emphasis on were."
"You keep saying 'were' as if I'm not like that anymore."
I sat on her bed. I wanted to hold her hand, but (feeling guilty about thinking it) was afraid to catch some disease from her. "No, I didn't mean it like that. I was just remembering the good old days. Remember Elsa? How could you forget?"
"I remember you turning me in. I remember you sending me to the camp." Her eyes stared at me with that blank expression. She had no feeling in what she was saying; it was just as if she were reciting a definition for class. "I remember getting a tattoo on a number on my arm. I remember all of the sharp pain that the tattoo had brung—both physically and mentally. I remember working for hours and hours straight, getting no food or water, and then being beaten that night. I remember selection when my mother was deemed unworthy to live, and was sent to the gas chamber. I remember watching her walk to her death. I remember those screams for help as the poor people inside were suffocating. I remember Kurt. I will never forget."
It was silent for a moment. Then I realized that people were banging on the door. "Open up, understand?"
I ignored them.
"Elsa, I didn't want to turn you in, honest. And I had to suffer a lot, too- more than you know." She turned her head away from me slowly. "Elsa—I love you."
I put my hand on hers.
She looked back at me. At this time, the nurses had gotten a key and were now in the room. I ignored them again. They did not concern me. Only Elsa concerned me.
"You don't mean that, Kurt. A German could never love a Jew." It was as if she could not put any emotion into her voice.
"No, no…Elsa, that's not true. I do love you! I—I'll prove it to you."
I jumped to my feet and began to pace back and forth. How could I prove to her that I did honestly and sincerely love her?
Then it hit me.
"Elsa, I do love you and I will show you right now." I sat on her bed again and reached around my neck. I undid the clasp of her necklace. I held the Star of David in my palm and showed it to her. "I never let it go, Elsa."
She looked at it, same solemn expression. "Kurt," she started, and then stopped.
"I'm sorry Elsa! I really am." I put the necklace into her hand and closed it.
"Thank you, Kurt. At least now before I die I will know someone cared for me."
"No! You're not going to die, Elsa." I turned to the nurses. "Tell her that she will survive. Please, tell her."
They came over to me and took me by the hand and walked me out of the room. "What's wrong? Why aren't you telling her she's going to live?"
The nurse that gave me the ride sighed and said, "Because, she is suffering from dysentery, malnutrition, and sever loss of blood. She won't last too much longer. I'm sorry, but not too many are surviving."
"But you run a hospital! You are supposed to save people! Not just give up hope on them!"
"Give up hope? No, you've got it all wrong. You do not understand the circumstances that these people have been thrown in. You don't understand that seriousness—"
"What the hell do you mean, I don't understand? I was at the camps! I know what they are like! I—"
"Then you understand how very few there will be left."
Tears started to form in my eyes. "But Elsa's the only one I have left…"
The nurses let me sleep in a vacant room that night. It was extremely small, only about half the size of Elsa's room (which was small, especially with three beds in it). There were now blankets on my bed, but it was not cold that night.
I could not sleep that night. I carefully got up from my bed and pressed my feet against the floor. I must have stepped on a loose board, and it squeaked. I paused for a moment, waiting to see if I had disturbed anybody. Positive that I did not, I continued to walk out the door.
I slowly crept around the hallway in the dark, trying to find the staircase that would lead me to Elsa's room.
"Is someone there?" I heard in English. I paused and pressed my shaking body against the wall. "Hello?"
A light turned on. Luckily it was in a room, and not in the hallway, so I was not seen. The light did, however, light up the hallway enough to show me where the staircase was. The light turned off and I continued to see my true love.
"Ouch," I said as I banged into the stairs. I stuck my arm out to break my fall. I blindly reached for the railing. When I grabbed a hold of it, I walked up.
I did not remember how many doors down Elsa's room was, so I went in every room and turned on the lights until I found her.
"Elsa!" I ran over to her bed.
Her eyes fluttered. They were the same solemn eyes of this afternoon. They were still hollow and blank. "Kurt," she whispered.
"Listen, Elsa. I'm sorry for everything that happened between us. I mean, I can't control what the government decides to do. What I'm trying to say is…damn, I'm terrible with words, aren't I?" I laughed nervously and looked at her. I was never afraid to talk to her. Now I am.
She smiled! "Yes, Kurt. You are." She opened her hand, showing me her necklace that she never let go. "Thank you again. This necklace means so much to me." She spoke slowly and had to take several breaths between each word.
"You mean a lot to me, Elsa." It sounded stupid as soon as I said it. She tried to laugh, but then stopped as she began coughing. "Yeah, that was stupid, I know."
"I think it…." She struggled for air again. "…is sweet."
"Elsa, you will get better, I promise. And we will start over, okay? And we will love each other just as much as we always did." She was struggling to breathe again. I put my hand on hers and said "Don't worry, Elsa. You'll be alright. We'll start all over."
"Start over…of course…things will be okay…because our love is forever. I had doubts…but you kept my necklace…"
"Elsa, I love you."
She smiled and her face was frozen. Her lips were still. Her body was still. Her hollow eyes we still. They had the same look as if staring into a void, but this felt different.
I sighed because I knew it was the end. "Yeah, Elsa. We will start over. Things will be okay."
I moved closer to her and held her in my arms. Then I did what I always did when a loved one left me. I began to cry.