So, I've always gotten a very positive response from readers and watchers whenever Klaus is mentioned, but for those who have not read my book and especially my final draft, I don't feel like you know him well enough. So I've decided to share a few new Klaus scenes that I've written recently to develop his character more.
around Chapter 8 at Edith's dinner party in late June
"Would you care to accompany me to the veranda for a cigarette?" he asked. "There's one on the second floor, and it's getting a bit stuffy in here."
I agreed, and soon we were standing out on the lanai, elbows leaning upon the cool iron, the brisk summer wind rustling the ivy that crawled up the side of the railing. Klaus pulled a pack of cigarettes from his waistcoat pocket along with a lighter. Imprinted in the copper were the letters K&K, and suddenly I wanted to ask him what had happened the other day—what Heinrich had said about choosing the Gypsy over him. I didn't have time to ask though, because Klaus was lighting his cigarette and was offering one to me, as well. Though I didn't care for the smell or the way it made my throat burn, I accepted it all the same. Unfortunately, I sucked in a little too much the first time and coughed up the stuff, so I returned it to its owner and he put it out on the railing and let it drop down onto the lawn below.
"Klaus," I said after clearing my throat, "why are you friends with him?"
"Hm?" said Klaus, balancing his own cigarette between his white teeth.
"Heinrich. He said so many horrid things to you that day, and yet you still call him your friend. I don't understand."
Klaus stared ahead, the pinkish light of the lawn lanterns turning the shadows on his face a lively shade of puce. "You just don't know him," he told me finally.
"I think I know enough," I said.
His forehead puckered a bit as his brows dipped down. "Well, he's my best friend. I grew up with him—he's like my brother. I know he's an asshole sometimes but he's my best mate."
"Has he always been like…that?"
"Oh, no! No," Klaus laughed. "He was a fantastic guy. He really was. But the Führer got him, I guess. Wiggled into his head through his speeches and words and ate him up from the inside. But the old him is still in there, I know it."
"But what if it isn't?"
"Then I guess this whole thing is pointless," said Klaus, still sounding bizarrely cheerful. "But I'm not giving up because I'm a broken record and an idiot: going around, seeing the good in people that isn't there anymore and pretending that everything's all right."
It fell to quiet for a while, but the overpowering, tragic curiosity that was stirring inside me soon proved to be too much. "Who was the girl he was talking about?" I asked softly. "If it's too personal, you don't have to tell me."
There was a long pause. "Kezia."
"Beg your pardon?"
"Her name was Kezia."
"She really was something. See?" he pulled a pocket watch from his waistcoat and opened it, holding it up to the lantern light. There was a small photograph on its inside cover, and I could just make out a lovely, dark-haired woman staring back a me.
"She's beautiful," I told him, and he grinned.
"She really was. She really was," he said, excited. "She played the violin, you know. She was great at it, too, just terrific. I'd just listen to her play sometimes. She really was something. She really was." He ran a hand through his hair, clearly agitated, and he kept talking so quickly that I could hardly keep up. "We met at university, you see. Had Psychology together. She really was brilliant. You'd have liked her—everybody liked her, except for Heinrich, but she was brilliant, she really was."
"Klaus, why do you keep saying was?" I interrupted.
He was getting frantic. "I—it's, she…" he mussed his hair again, chewing hard on his cigarette. "She was brilliant, but they took her away—none of that mattered to them. She was going to be a violinist and they didn't even care…"
"Who took her away? Who is 'they'?"
"Heinrich. Reiner. Me. Us. People like us." Klaus clenched at the railing, seeming almost manic. "I watched them take her away. They broke her violin. I was sitting with her in her parlour and I didn't do anything. Nothing. And you know what's funny? Do you?" I shook my head, almost frightened, and he let out the most depressing laugh I've ever heard. "What's funny," he said, "is that no more than two months after they did that to her family, I joined them. I'm 'them' now. I'm 'them'!"
I just stared at him, unable to think of any words. None of them would change anything.
He turned to face me, a jet of smoke drifting from his mouth. "Want to hear another funny story?" he asked. "This one's really a kicker, Sara. It really is. So, there's this soldier, right? He's kind of lazy. Doesn't like doing work. Well, he's stationed at this internment camp on his way to Poland—just some gate guarding, right? Good stuff for lazy bastards like him. And then he sees all these people being herded out of this train. All these people wearing gold stars and triangle patches, and they're all thin and frightened. And then he sees this girl, and he knows her. And she knows him and she yells out his name. And his soldier buddies look over at him and glare at him and they ask why some Gypsy whoredog knows his name. And this soldier, he looks back at the girl, and she looks so happy to see him even though she's being poked and prodded towards the chain link fences. She smiles at him, like she's waiting for him to save her. And he just stands there and looks at her for a minute." He tapped out his ashes onto the veranda floor. "And then he looks away and tells his friends that he didn't know who she is. And she hears him. She hears every word and it kills her. So later, when the people were all gone, he asked one of the guards where the people went, right? He didn't see any barracks or any prisoners working or anything. And you know what the kicker is?"
He laughed again, but this time it broke midway through. It came out a whimper. "The guard told that soldier that nobody worked there. He pointed up at a big chimney, right? And he said, 'that's where they all went'." Klaus took the spent cigarette from his mouth and crushed it in his palm. "So that's the story. Hilarious, right? That guy ignored his girl and she got fried in a furnace. And he didn't even look at her. He didn't even nod his head or tell her he was sorry. He looked away. And then she died."
My heart was in my throat, and yet I couldn't say a thing. I suddenly wanted to tell him about Benjamin. So much. About the hole in the roof, about the radio, the attic, the dancing, everything. I wanted to tell him that he wasn't alone; that I was sorry. Then I realized it wouldn't matter:
I was a stranger to him. He didn't know my last name, he didn't know that I wanted to be a performer, that my parents wanted me to get married, to settle down instead of moving on, and I didn't know anything about his past either, except that he fell in love with a Gypsy and paid a price for it. But sometimes the people you know the least are the ones you remember the most.
Around Chapter 33, when Sara is in Dachau
By the time I saw his reedy silhouette approaching me that evening, the night had already swallowed up the daylight, replacing it with safe, murky darkness. He advanced warily, his russet brows turned down.
"I'm sorry," gasped Klaus, leaning against the barrack. "Goddamn, Sara, how did you even end up in a place like this?"
"There's no time for that now," I replied, a strange but familiar fire alighting in my chest. "I need you to do something for me."
I pulled my striped cap farther over my head, concealing what was left of my hair. "I want you to tell me where he is."
"Where who is?"
"Benjamin. The boy I was walking with when I came. If you do not know which barrack he's in, I want you to find out."
Klaus looked dubious. "Why?"
"Because I want you to put me with the men."
He stiffened. "Sara-"
"I'm skinny, I have little hair, they won't know. I need you to do this for me, Klaus, please. If I'm to die here, I want to at least be with him."
He looked at me long and hard, his face remorseful. Finally, he sighed. "Fine. I'll meet you here in four days time, all right? Hopefully I will 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 properly 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, pulling his hand away. "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."
Listening to: Let Me Love You - Ne-Yo
Reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts [...]