Mar 18, 2021

Contemporary Sad Historical Fiction

Author's note: This isn't exactly depressing, but it might appear a little upsetting to some.


Esther (1943)

Twenty-four hours.

Twenty-four hours for my entire life to turn upside down.

And now I was locked up in the attic miles away from home.

It all started when my parents had rushed to my brother and me that night with coats, saying in hoarse voices, "Gather only what you need and hurry! We need to move." 

They had been searching for a place all these months. We weren't allowed to go to school the past few weeks, in fear of the danger our lives were in. We had been biding our time for the right moment, the right opportunity. 

Life wasn't easy when you were outcasts in your own country. When they stripped you of your citizenship just because you were a Jew. When you had to be careful every living moment, when all that came to your mind when you thought of your future was terrible. When you knew that no one deserved this.

This new place was hundreds of kilometers away from where I lived in Hannover, Germany. The journey took several hours, spanning throughout the night. We finally reached before dawn; lucky to have made it all the way without being caught. 

When we arrived, I could only remember hushed voices, urgent whispers, the scurrying about of feet as we were jostled in, and the lingering air of pandemonium. All they had told me was that the war had made us relocate to a safer place for a while and that we were going to live in the attic of one of mom’s friends’ houses until things cleared up. 

The attic was no bigger than our old living room, and it had no windows at all. I wondered how four people would live here. For more than half a year? Or till the war ended, if it ever did? 

It had been two days already, but it felt like a fortnight. 

Around me, dreary darkness threatened to swallow me whole, the old furniture lay around without any life, and the sheer coldness of the approaching winter made me shiver. 

And of course, I could hear the laughter. Who could forget the joy flitting around downstairs when mom's friends, the Masons, had guests for tea? I could make out half a dozen other voices, having an animated discussion. On golf or politics or something like that. 

"They could be more careful, the Masons." Mom had said, "Our lives depend on outsiders knowing about us."

I knew what she meant. We couldn't let anyone else learn of our presence. If they found us out, they would report us to the Nazis without a second thought and we would be pancakes.

I still heard their laughter, their chuckles. Their flooding joy. 


Matthias (2019)

“So this is the place we’re moving to,” I said, looking out the window, as our car zipped by at a million miles per hour

"Yes it is," said my mother, "unless we've taken a wrong turn."

The car rounded in a smaller street which had already been lit up with street lamps, even though it was still light outside. The houses here were larger and more grandly built, furnished to look like mansions. The car came to a stop in front of a three-storeyed house. When I looked outside, my mouth fell open. 

"Mom, you don't mean to say we're going to live here?" I said, my voice filled with disbelief. 

"Yes, Matthias. This is the place." 

My eyes moved across the grandeur, the fine finish, the majestic windows and doors, the sloped roof, and the arched gate that swept me off my feet.

Trust me, but I never thought we were going to live in a house that looked like it came from the previous century.



Esther 

Each day went the same way. Monotonous, tedious, and nothing to distinguish a Sunday from a Monday. We couldn't hold conversations, laugh out loud or risk opening the trapdoor even a tiny shade.

Too preposterous.

Every evening, at four p.m, we could hear the doorbell ring and the guests stroll in, full of boisterous laughter. If we didn't have a clock, we had them. 

Mom didn't dare speak up against this routine like before. She only pursed her lips, saying we would rather not question the Masons right now. With the war proceeding and our dependency on them rising, they could threaten to make us move out. 

Every morning, we had to wake up at dawn break, before the neighbors could rise and hear us. We freshened up on the third floor after the Masons ensured that all their rooms had been curtained securely. Breakfast was always scanty. The Masons reasoned that they couldn't get excess food home without giving rise to suspicion. We were grateful, but I still missed the steaming hot food from back home. 

Things kept getting worse. Hitler declared the systematic Assassination of all Jews, bombs kept dropping from the clouded skies, and more and more innocent people were subjected to unexplainable horrors. The Masons turned up the radio every night so we would be able to hear the latest news too, but I could never bear more than a few minutes. The speeches Hitler gave, the way his words were filled with loathing for us, and how so many cheered him on in broad daylight. 

Pictures of people suffering and fighting for their life cascaded in front of my eyes and made my insides churn. 

I hated it.

But I could do nothing. 



Matthias

The house was old-fashioned and weird.

The interiors were intricately crafted, walls covered with floral wallpaper that stood strong even after all these years. The doors were embezzled with fine carvings, curving over the surface and forming evoking designs. A few framed pictures and portraits hung by the mantelpiece, adorning the walls. 

I wondered whose pictures they were. All I knew was that this house was originally owned by an influential family called the Masons. These were probably family portraits.

Something caught my eye from the hallway, almost completely hidden from view. 

A trapdoor. Leading where? 

Taking an expeditious glimpse around, I lowered the stairs that descended and began treading upstairs, my heart thumping. The area above was dark, but I was fortunate I didn't fear rodents or creepy crawlies. 

I finally came upon inky darkness, one that made me draw in my breath. I fumbled around for my phone and flashed its light ahead. My surroundings had turned still, enigmatic. I seemed to be in an attic.

In front of me, German furniture lay, coated with years of dust and memories. Half-torn cushions were thrown around, one lying just at my feet. A few shabby clothes were left on the chairs, and the walls were bare and bleak, the slanted ceiling nearly touching my head.

Nothing here was remotely close to the life I had been accustomed to. 

It was straight out of the 1940s.



Esther

You could call it the worst day of my life. 

Thinking about it painted fresh pictures in my mind, bringing back terror. 

The sirens wailing through the stillness of the night, echoing in the skies, making my heart run cold.

"Oh no, an air raid!" I shot up, "They're going to drop explosives on us."

I couldn't see anything in the pitch blackness, not even my family. Only their outlines scrambling through the dark, making their way somewhere. 

"Esther!" My mom yelled, "Come down here! We're going to the cellar until the danger is over!"

I didn't need another second. I threw myself on my legs towards the trapdoor. Dorian had already gone down, and my parents shuffled behind me. The Masons showed us the way and we slipped into the cellar, fastening the cellar trap door over us. It barely muffled the sound.

"Are we going to die?" Whispered Dorian.

"We won't." I hated lying through my teeth like this, but how else could I assure a ten-year-old? "We're going to come out of this."

He nodded, his eyes huge and glinting in the dark.

I wanted to believe my own words.

I couldn't say how long the night went, but it felt like years. None of us had the courage to speak up. We could only keep to ourselves and fear the very worst. I imagined what would happen if the bombs did descend over us. How would it feel? Would we be able to sense anything? 

Was this the true end? 

The next thing I remembered was being woken up by someone. When we were ushered to the attic, I was too flustered to protest. I thought over and over again, how the worst hadn't happened, and how fortunate we were to still be alive. 

But maybe not so much. 

Two days later, when the Masons had their radio turned on, we heard something that hit our ears like a torpedo. 

"The city of Hannover in Germany which had once been a thriving center, has been bombarded. The city had been under the threat of air raids since September 1939, but hitherto, suffered minimal damage. However, it was attacked on 9th October 1943, and this is taken to be one of the most disastrous air raids in the history of Hannover. An estimated 1245 people were killed, and…" the reporter's voice trailed away as I gripped one of the chairs for support, the world spinning under my feet.

Hannover. Where I had spent my entire childhood. The city which had been more dear to me than any other. Bombed. Destroyed. Turned into ruins. 

I realized that the planes which had passed over our hiding place that night were probably the same ones that had brought about my city's doom. 

They had left us alone but had gone straight for Hannover.


Matthias

I was back in the attic.

Flashing my torch over the dark interiors, I held my breath. Nothing had changed; things were just the way they had been yesterday. 

I shook my head. What was I thinking? Why would I expect anything to change when I was the only person coming here?

Today, my eyes caught something I hadn't noticed before.

In the farthest corner of the attic, a writing table stood next to one of the chairs. It had a battered leg and was far beyond use. I edged towards it, the floorboards creaking under my shoes.

A few books had been scattered over the wooden table, the text on them was inscrutable. I could only make out a dog-eared classic novel and a few crumbling papers.

On one of the sheets, something had been scribbled with an ink pen, curling across the page in a swirl of letters. 

A name:

'Esther'

I swallowed. Who was this Esther? Was she one of the Masons? I wanted to believe that really bad, but her name evoked some memory as if I had heard it somewhere. I knew that as influential as the Masons were, none of them were dead famous. 

Below her name was scrawled: 'October 1943''

A shiver ran down my spine. Was that when Esther, or whoever she was, had written these words down? Could paper survive so long without disintegrating?

I took another hasty glimpse around. Suddenly, I felt as if I wasn't in my attic. I felt as if I was invading someone's space, someone's life, merely by standing here.

The chairs, the cushions, the boxes, the books.

They were all Esther's. 

Esther from 80 years ago.

I didn't belong. 


Esther

The year was coming to an end. I had been accustomed to this way of life; it had been almost seven months since we had first arrived, but it felt like years. I didn't complain or whine anymore, because it was pointless. 

I rarely spoke, either. 

"Why won't you talk?" Dorian whispered one night when everyone was asleep, "Why do you always sit by that corner?"

"Because they'll take us away and lock us up if we make any noise." I hissed, which was perhaps a little harsh.

"But we should be allowed to talk." He said, "Is the world so bad that we have to stay inside an attic and not say a word for months on end?"

'Yes, it is,' I wanted to say, 'It's worse. Did you forget Hannover? The killings? The heartlessness of it all? This is only the beginning.'

But I stuck to, "Sometimes we have to do things we don't want to."


* * *


It was an ordinary evening in November- or how ordinary things could get when you were locked up. I was leafing through the only memory I had brought along: a worn-out old novel. Something had made me pick it up after such a long time, not the longing to read, but more like an impending sense of what was to come. 

I turned the pages over, flipping them around restlessly. My mind was buzzing, hundreds of thoughts flickering through.

We were so close to the outside world, yet so far away. It had been so long since we had seen another outsider or had spoken to anyone.

I got up from my cushion, book in hand, my heart hammering. 

I wanted this to end. I didn't want to live like this anymore. 

What happened next happened so quickly I didn't realize it. I heard the bell ring, a coarse knock on the door, someone give a shrill cry downstairs, and the door swing open.

Mom and dad stiffened instantly, their faces going white. Dorian looked back and forth at them and me, his eyes huge.

I wanted to believe it was the guests coming over again, and I strained my ears to hear their laugh and banter, their loud talk. 'In a moment now,' I told myself, 'You'll hear the woman laugh and the man snort. It's all okay.'

But even underneath all my optimism, I knew it was different. 

"We're not holding anyone." I heard Mrs. Mason say from downstairs, "It's only the two of us." I could feel the fear in her voice.

"We need to check the house." Came back a voice, rough, brutal, and inhumane in every possible way, "We cannot be sure until we do so."

"There's no one." Mr. Mason budged in, and I could picture them both blocking the door with their shoulders, persisting, trying to hold the former back, "Really no one."

"Orders." The official said. Hearing him filled me with revulsion. Orders? Was it orders to decide someone's death sentence? 

Dorian's face was filled with disbelief as if he couldn't get why we weren't leaping around and doing everything in our control to conceal our presence. Why we had frozen the moment we got to understand. 

I wanted to say a million things, everything I had been holding back all these months and a lot more. 

But nothing escaped my mouth. Not a word. Not a syllable. 

The shuffling of feet echoed right up to the attic, and with a pang, I realized that the Masons hadn't succeeded in holding him back. The official, the decider of our fate, was just a few feet away. In a few seconds, he would find the attic, come through and discover us. And what would happen after that?

Concentration camps? Gas chambers? 'Systematic assassination? 

I didn't know.

A wild urge made me shoot for the fountain pen I kept on the table by the corner, and jot something down. My writing came out all sloppy, but I needed to get it down. 

And a moment before he came, a moment before we were discovered, I exchanged eye contact with my mother, father and Dorian. An untold message passed in our gaze. Something which made us lift our chin and look ahead. I remembered all the times we had had together, all the fun. All the days before the war swallowed our lives. No matter what happened, no one could take that away from me. 

Not even the Nazis.

I let myself go, handing myself over to what fate had for me.


Matthias

Every day, I returned to the attic, and every day, I searched through the whole place. Looking for what, I didn't know. Evidence? Documentation of the existence of someone called Esther? Maybe. I only knew that I kept coming back again and again, filled with renewed energy every single time. 

And then I saw it. 

Scribbled on the last page of the book, was something I had missed before. Something that stood out from everything else in the attic.

Something that could only have been written by Esther:

'They took us away but they cannot take away our spirit.

We are the Cohens and no one can conquer us.'







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106 comments

16:07 Mar 18, 2021

Hey everyone! 1. So what is this story? Well, I don't know how I wrote it but I did try to do my best, keeping the word limit in mind and trying not to ramble too much! 2. This is kinda new for me, so I would love all kinds of constructive criticism! Help me tear it apart, but in a nice way! 3. What was your favorite part? What part bored you? What part didn't you like? Tell me in the comments! :) 4. I might delete this story if isn't written well, though. 5. Fact: This story was originally around 5000 words before I cut it down! 6. I'll tel...

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Meera Lakshmi
12:42 Mar 23, 2021

Hey. I heard you got major downvoted. I’m so sorry. Want to do an upvote for upvote?

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13:01 Mar 23, 2021

Aww thank you so much! I'm in! But could we do it a little later? I was helping one of my friends and I'll do yours after I'm done there! :)

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Meera Lakshmi
13:06 Mar 23, 2021

😊

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Meera Lakshmi
14:49 Mar 23, 2021

I'm gonna upvote you in the meantime :)

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Meera Lakshmi
14:50 Mar 23, 2021

Can you spam a bunch of comments here?

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16:40 Mar 23, 2021

Shall I now? (I didn't see this message before sorry)

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Sarah 💜🌸
19:46 Mar 18, 2021

1. This story was amazing! Every shift in time was interesting and cool. You spent a lot of time with Esther's character and her way of thinking. 2. The only thing I can say is that "Jews" should be capitalized. 3. My favorite part? Probably the ending sentence. Kinda gave me chills. Nothing really bored me tbh, and I liked every moment in the story.

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14:52 Mar 19, 2021

1. Thank you so much, Sarah! I'm glad you liked it!! :) 2. Okay! I'll make the changes, thanks for pointing them out! 3. Cool!! I was worried the ending was abrupt. Thank you!! :))

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16:46 Mar 23, 2021

Helloooo new thread 🧵

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16:48 Mar 23, 2021

Hello thread!! 🧵 Also, I got you up a little!!

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16:52 Mar 23, 2021

Thankkk youuu :) sO Plans for today?

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16:54 Mar 23, 2021

Np!! Nothing for today cause the day's almost over here, but tomorrow I'm gonna finish that story NO MATTER WHAT XD XD (lol my stories almost ALWAYS cross the word limit if they their plot is long) What about you? (Gosh it gets so warm here, like 38 degrees Celsius/100 degrees Fahrenheit!!)

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16:57 Mar 23, 2021

Lol yeah XD I wanna start a new mixed media painting, and talk with people, try to make something with the dump of snow we got yesterday XD oml thatss hotttttt 🥵

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16:58 Mar 23, 2021

XD Hey that's cool!! Oh Snow!! I LOVE snow!! Does it snow often where you live? Yess it is!! I sometimes wish I lived on the north Pole XD

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Keya M.
16:00 Mar 23, 2021

Mira and I got you over 1500 points Akshaya! Yesss!

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Meera Lakshmi
16:01 Mar 23, 2021

Meera Lakshmi, not Caplan lol

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Keya M.
16:02 Mar 23, 2021

Right, sorry! I forget you spell your name differently on here!

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16:06 Mar 23, 2021

Thank you so much, both of you!! 😭😭😄😄 I WILL UPVOTE YOU BOTH NOW!! 😄😄😄😄😊😊

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Keya M.
16:07 Mar 23, 2021

Of course! Ur our friend! And no downvoter messes with my friends.

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Keya M.
12:37 Mar 23, 2021

Yes! Akshaya, I just got you up to 1000 points! I hope that helps. What was your original amount? I know you were on the leaderboard, so it must have been a lot. If you could tell me, I'd love to help out some more to get you back there. Also, could you upvote me too? I'd appreciate it.

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12:41 Mar 23, 2021

Thank you so much, Keya! It really helps a lot!! 😄😄 I saw the number 1000 and I was so glad! It was 1900 but you don't have to upvote me that much!! Thank you! Definitely!! I'm gonna get you to 500!! :))

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Keya M.
12:42 Mar 23, 2021

Thank you so much, Akshaya! And I am so getting you to 2000! ❤

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Keya M.
12:53 Mar 23, 2021

Wow, a perfect 1111!!

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20:02 Mar 21, 2021

Nice pfp :]

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15:55 Mar 22, 2021

Thanks Amethyst! :))

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16:40 Mar 22, 2021

Np :)))

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13:09 Mar 23, 2021

:)))))

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16:38 Mar 23, 2021

The downvoters are targeting me :(((

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16:39 Mar 23, 2021

Oh no!! They downvoted 2/3rds of my points too! :(( I'll upvote you now!! Could you help me as well?

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Keya M.
14:49 Mar 21, 2021

Hi Akshaya! Loved this story. I thought the way you tied the two characters together even though they never actually met was very cool. Good job 👏 P.S: I wanted to let u know that whoever has downvoted you is a mean, and uncouth person who is obviously jealous of you and your awesome writing skills. I will upvote u as much as I can. ❤️✌️

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17:18 Mar 21, 2021

Thank you so much, Keya!! 😊😊 P.S Aww thank you!! ❤ I'll upvote you tomorrow because it's over 10pm here! :))

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Keya M.
18:05 Mar 21, 2021

Of course!

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Keya M.
18:06 Mar 21, 2021

U deserve it ❤️

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16:14 Mar 22, 2021

Thank you so much!! ❤😊 You're really kind!

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00:32 Mar 20, 2021

Wow. AMAZ!!!

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06:21 Mar 20, 2021

Thank you!! :)

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Meera Lakshmi
00:34 Mar 24, 2021

I lost 100 points. Do you think you could help out?

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Meera Lakshmi
00:35 Mar 24, 2021

WAIT. What happened to the 1500 number Keya and I got you??!!

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16:23 Mar 24, 2021

Sure I'll definitely help you!! They downvoted me again :/

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Keya M.
15:28 Mar 23, 2021

1300+! I'm so happy I could help Akshaya! I'll try and get you as high up as possible!

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16:07 Mar 23, 2021

Thank youuu! Imma get you to 1000 now!!

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Keya M.
16:08 Mar 23, 2021

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16:09 Mar 23, 2021

:D <33

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Wow, this is really good! I'm impressed by the way you wove the two timelines together.

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10:43 Apr 20, 2021

Thank you so much, Em! I'm glad you liked this story! :)

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Samantha Langley
13:49 Mar 22, 2021

I like your profile picture.

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15:44 Mar 22, 2021

Thank you! :D How is your week?

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Samantha Langley
18:34 Mar 22, 2021

It's good so far, thanks! What about you?

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13:09 Mar 23, 2021

Mine is good, too! But school takes up a lot of time!

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Samantha Langley
13:54 Mar 23, 2021

Yeah, me too... I type this as I read my directions for an assignment... XD

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16:07 Mar 23, 2021

Hehe it's night now so I'm done for today. But there's always tomorrow... XD

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Hey Akshaya! How are you doing? It’s been a while since we last talked, since you left Discord 😅 I’m really sorry I haven’t been able to read any of your stories, but I haven’t been active on Reedsy in forever, and the classwork this year is making me want to study more so I won’t kill myself before exams like I did last year. What about you? Also, just asking once more, but what do you know about prep boards? My parents were wondering about that today and I was like. 🥺😳 Lots of love (doing my Bio HW), Sythe 🌮

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15:50 Mar 22, 2021

Hey Sythe! I'm doing fine! What about you? Yess it has been! No problem, I've been busy too! :) 9th grade is a whole new level 😬 XD. I'm trying to update myself on all the lessons everyday, unlike last year, and I hope I (we) keep up! What subjects did you choose? I chose maths,science and computer. A teacher of mine told me that the board council will set our final paper this year in ninth grade instead of the school centre doing it, but we'll write it in our own school and the teachers will correct it. (Oh gosh after listening to the tea...

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Hello again! Well, I’m doing as well as one can with such a heavy workload, of course! And by Jove, the hell it is! Same here but, as expected, I’m failing quite miserably 😂! Yes, may the Force be with us both! Yes, I chose the same subjects as well. My biggest life regret now is taking Computer instead of MMC. Oh, okay! In that case, I haven’t the least bother with it, but either way, I (we) shall have to be on my (out) tip toes this year! 😬 😱😱😱😱😱 Heaven help us! Remembering everything from one term is hard enough, 😱😱😱😱😱

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16:25 Mar 23, 2021

Yess that's so true!! *excuse me as I go freak out* Hehe lol! I like computer though! We only need to be VERY careful Yeah!! (Sorry for the short reply. I'll update things later)

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😂😂😂 I don’t like computer, actually. I always hated the sibject if I didn’t involve Scratch or iPads or Minecraft 😅 MMC could have been a useful subject in life. Allow me to curse myself inwardsly? (BTW, in case you’re wondering, my friend suggested I read a novel on Wattpad called Storm and Silence. It’s set in Victorian England, so the language has influenced mine, so you’ll have to pardon my archaic language 🤣) Of course!

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16:15 Mar 24, 2021

LOL! XD XD What is MMC? We had computer (or) art (or) Physical Education I did wonder where the phrases 'By Jove' came. It reminded me of Little Women XD XD We have a chemistry test on Friday and I'm like 0.0

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Hey Akshaya! DON'T DELETE THIS STORY! It's so intriguing and the 1943 vibe is marvelous! I love the Anne Frank vibe, is it inspired? Both of your characters are so believable, and I can imagine myself as Esther/Matthias! You must do a part two, u want to know what happens next! Unless,of course, you're sticking with the cliffhanger ending, in which case, I LOVE it. The last sentence was amazing! Also, you should listen to these songs- Centuries by Fall Out Boy Stronger by Kelly Clarkson Teeth by 5SOS Pretty Girl by Maggie Lindemann (it...

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Hey Akshaya! WOW, this story kept me at the edge of my seat! I loved how u made the two characters sort of united even when they never met. My favorite part was the end!!! Great work:DDD

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08:03 Mar 21, 2021

Thank you so much Varsha!! I'm glad you liked it!! Thank you!! :DD

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