"He looked at me long and hard, his face remorseful. At last, he sighed. “Fine. I’ll meet you here in four days time, all right? Hopefully I’ll know by then. You know, Sara, I…I wish I could do more.”
Suddenly, Klaus reached in his pocket and retrieved two cigarettes, and with a weak, slipshod smile, he offered me one. I accepted it, and together we smoked as the night engulfed us. What a sight—a Nazi guard and an inmate swapping cigarettes behind a barrack!
“Just like old times, hmm?” I asked him, almost amused as I attempted to make a smoke ring.
“God,” he muttered, shaking his head, “it was only nine months ago that we danced at your friend’s party. Nine damn months and look where we are.”
“Thing’s change, don’t they?” I said.
He nodded. “So do we. We change. We really do. We’re like seasons, you know? And it’s our winter now—everything’s dead.”
“But spring comes next, doesn’t it?”
“I hope it does. I really do.” With a sad laugh, he balanced the cigarette between his white teeth and we just looked up at the sky, and I was suddenly sad that I had never properly known him, never sat down with him for a cup of tea or a good film. In another, easier life, we could have surely been friends; perhaps I could have even loved him. But I didn’t, because things didn’t turn out that way. He was the good boy who made all the wrong choices, and I was the girl who made the right ones and was punished for them. I was a prisoner, I was vermin, and he was at the mercy and command of the Devil himself. These were our lives, our fates, and they were sealed.
At last, after our cigarettes were spent and disposed of in a clump of snow, Klaus turned to me.
“This boy, Benjamin: he’s a Jew, right?” he asked.
“He’s the reason you’re here, isn’t he?”
I bridled. “What does it matter to you?”
“I’m proud of you.”
He sighed. “I’m proud of you, Sara. You broke the silence; you stood up and did what was right when I couldn’t. You’re braver than I can ever dream of being, you know.” He grinned. “You’re a survivor.”
art, Klaus, writing (c) me