Grandmother's Secret

Submitted into Contest #34 in response to: Write a story about a rainy day spent indoors.... view prompt

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It was raining heavily, the raindrops falling against the window, making a tapping noise. Outside, the sky has turned gray and looks like the blurred image of the backyard of the house. Sasha sits on the sofa, cross legged, her gaze on the large TV screen in front of her. She was watching Riverdale, the TV show on Netflix and after watching for about an hour, Sasha is now feeling bored. She turned off the TV and the room is filled with sudden silence, except for the noise of the raindrops tapping against the windows and rain falling heavily outside.

Sasha yawns, stretches herself and gets up from the couch. Rainy days always made Sasha feel lazy. Maybe it would be a perfect time to snuggle up on the couch back again, with a cup of hot chocolate and read a good thriller.

Or maybe, it would be a good time to do some cleaning up in the attic.

Sasha decided to clean up the attic.

Taking a duster and a dust towel, she goes up into the attic, which is actually just right above her room. The attic is out in the open, with no door. The attic has a musty smell, clinging in the air. There were old sewing machine, some dummies, some more boxes at the corner of the attic. A different pile of boxes are stacked neatly on the plywood floor just near the window. Her mother must have recently moved those boxes up in to the attic, after her grandmother passed away, about a month ago. The boxes all contained her grandmother's belongings, including some childhood stuff, her grandmother had cherished over the years.

Sasha walks towards the boxes and kneel down. The boxes are not sealed so it was easy to open without a hassle. Sasha feels slightly ashamed that she barely knew her grandmother. All she knows is that her grandmother migrated to America after the war in Europe, married her grandfather and settled down here in Iowa. She knew that her grandmother was from Germany but moved to Netherlands when she was a teenager and had lived there until the end of the war. Her grandmother hardly talked about her life in Europe but Sasha's sister told her once that her grandmother lost both her parents and her younger sister and brother in the war and it traumatized her to talk about her childhood experiences. So Sasha never talked or asked her grandmother about her childhood in Europe.

But today, might be a perfect opportunity for her to learn about her grandmother's childhood past.

Sasha opens the box. There was a leather bound book among some other books and she takes that book out of the box. She softly brushes the film of dust that lined up on the front cover before opening what appeared to be an album. The first page, yellowed with age and written in a flourished handwriting--Heinrich Goldstein 1938. She saw the black and white images, what appeared to be photos. Photos of her grandmother's childhood. Sasha immediately recognized her grandmother--her round smiling face, her blonde hair cascading down her shoulder, her arms around her younger brother who all looked happy in the camera. The photos went on, showing her grandmother, turning into a beautiful woman, her playful eyes shining at the camera. Sasha smiled, wondering how many men her grandmother had dated before her grandfather.

The album was short and finishes in the year 1942. Sasha frowned, wondering why. Maybe because of the war, they must have stopped taking pictures....Sasha thought, putting the album away.

Then she sees a stack of what appeared to be letters, all bundled up with a pink colored ribbon, that seemed to have withered with age. Sasha takes the letters out and opens the bundle. The paper was yellowed with age, some even looked brittle and the ink seems to have faded with age. There were about twenty or thirty letters. Sasha slowly looks at the date. The first letter was dated somewhere in August 1936. The handwriting was crisp and neat and Sasha realized that the letter was written in German. Thankfully, Sasha studied German back in college so she could read at least some part of the letter.

"Dear Wilhelm, we have just started our new life in Amsterdam. We have a house very similar to the one we had back in Berlin. We even started to learn Dutch which is also sound like German so we were able to pick the language without a problem! Are you still in Hitler Youth Movement? How's Berlin? How's everyone?"

Sasha realized that the letter was written by her grandmother--her name was Klara. But she wondered who this Wilhelm person was. Sasha continued reading the letters and through her basic understanding of German, Sasha realized that these letters were love letters. Her grandmother was in love with a boy named Wilhelm at that time. In a letter dated September 1939, her grandmother had professed her love to this boy in a romantic way.

"I know we are at war. I know you are going to enlist in the army and going to fight in this war. I pray that my love for you will protect you. We are like Romeo and Juliet Wilhelm...have you read the story? You my Romeo and I am your Juliet. You are German in love with a Jew like me. You were not afraid of breaking the law by falling in love with a Jew. I hope you are still wearing that bracelet I made for you? I still am, because it will help me to remember you and feel the close bond with you. I wish Hitler never came to power, so we can be together without any worries. We can get married, like we talked back then, and maybe we could have kids. Remember how you said you want to have four children and I wanted only two? But when the war is over, I will come back to you my love. I hope you will never forget me..."

And Sasha soon immersed into her grandmother's life, back during the war. How her grandmother's life changed after Nazis came to Netherlands in 1942, how she and her family hid in an annex with another family in an office building, how she described her life in hiding to Wilhelm, how she hoped he wasn't fighting somewhere in Russia because she heard Germans were losing in Russia in because of the freezing weather. And in the last letter, dated September 1944, Klara, her grandmother in a pleading tone had said that if there was such thing as reincarnation, maybe she and Wilhelm would reunite in another life, as lovers again or maybe after the war, she will come searching for him. But already, Sasha knew that her grandmother, never ended up marrying her German lover but married an American soldier who was also in Europe, fighting in the war.

Sasha put the letters down and stared at the window. The rain has started to cease, the gray clouds now disappearing. A single drop of tear rolled down her cheek.

Sasha realized for the first time that her grandmother was Jewish. Her grandmother never told anyone that she was Jewish but Sasha suspected her grandfather already knew. Her grandmother's family just didn't die in the war--they were victims of Holocaust. Sasha was one quarter Jewish, she realized. Did her sister or even her mother know? But more than that, Sasha was sad about her grandmother's love story. It was more like Romeo and Juliet. She hugged the letters to her chest, wondering what really happened to this Wilhelm, who may have died in the war. And maybe, her grandmother is already in heaven already reunited with her German lover. And even though she married her grandfather, her grandmother's heart belonged to Wilhelm.

If it was not raining and if Sasha decided not to go up into the attic, Sasha would never have found her grandmother's secret.

Sasha, clutching the letters, leaves the attic and goes into the room. She puts the letters into a box, where she usually keeps her valuable things. Then she opens her laptop and types something on the Google search engine.

March 27, 2020 15:29

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1 comment

Peace Nakiyemba
22:33 Mar 31, 2020

Nothing like rain to get us creative with how we spend our time. The plot of your story flows very well. Makes for a very engaging read. Your story keeps wavering in tenses. I don't know if that is intentional but it would be nice to have a single tense to read in. And some words are missing for some lines like 'And Sasha was soon immersed in her grandmother's life'. Keep writing!


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