The Dark Side of Family- A Short Story

It's 1944 and in the air raid infested streets of London a girl wanders the street looking for shelter. She tells her story...

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1. Maria

My name is Maria Stöchem and I am German. I was born in Berlin on the 8th January 1929. Since the day I was born all I can remember firmly in my mind that I was raised to love and worship Nazi Germany. All day in school we would learn about the party and what good it would do Germany and how it would redeem it after the suffering when we were defeated in World War 1. Up until I was 13 years old my mind completely believed it. I was certain that the Nazi party would bring peace and better things to Germany

At this point my parents were struggling because my mother had lost her job in the depression. My mother Aimee was a prim, clean woman who had been very well off before the depression hit, although we saw things in a very different way me and my mother were very close and she is probably the only one who I miss truly without bitter memories. My father Christopher was something quite the opposite. He was a Captain of something very important although I and my mother were never told what because we were not expected to understand given that we were female. To say that I loved my father would be a lie. Regularly he would come home in a bad temper for one reason or another and then drink. He would drink until me or mother told him to stop desperately but usually this meant in one of us ending up with a black eye the next morning. I never truly hated my father for I knew work was hard and that he didn’t mean to get into violent rages like he did but all the same I would hide in my bedroom when he came home and prayed he wouldn’t call me. Life was never easy.

School strangely enough was one of the most pleasant points of my day and unlike many of my fellow school friends I didn’t dread the school gates. Although my parents were having less and less money by the day they insisted on sending me to the apparently best education. Berlin Academy for Girls was very well thought of and we were all expected to be awfully polite and sophisticated. No rough games and no mud. Each of us were knitted out in a hideous green and black tartan shirt, white blouse and black jacket with the schools green clover logo stitched on the front. Privately every girl hated the uniform but not wearing a single piece of the outfit would get you the slipper or chalk in the back of your legs.

Personally I was doing well at the Academy. I had friends and my grades were not poor. I especially loved one woman called Lesley. She was a teacher at the school. She dreamed of one day being a teacher in England but her dreams had been shattered in WW1. As well as being kind Lesley was the exact image of everything I wanted to look like. While I had muddy, brown eyes and bobbed black hair she was stunning with long plaited golden hair and the most brilliant blue eyes. I envied her but all the same I couldn’t help loving her. We were firm friends but somehow as the war swept over us Lesley was always treated badly. The teachers avoided her as if she was a bad smell and the smallest things she got wrong when teaching a class were treated as if a huge catastrophe. A couple of the girls hated her but most of us were confused by how she would be any different so that she was treated like this. We were about to find out.

It was February 1940 and the War had just started to affect our town. I noticed a few people all random were disappearing from the streets. I never thought they had done anything wrong. Mr Cretan who ran the sweetshop suddenly vanished and the Butcher Mr Taughten was gone in the night. Being 11 years old these disappearances washed over my head. That was until Lesley one day announced that she was moving away to a camp. I was confused. A Camp? What did she mean by camp? Lesley explained that because her family believed in different things than me or any other person in this town so she and all her family were to be moved to one of these camps were they could live with people like them. Of course I was upset but I couldn’t do anything and on Lesley’s last day I cried a little but other wise was normal. 2 years later and my life changed.

It was the day after my 13th Birthday and I was going on a walk when I came across a large wired gate which inside held lots of people all dressed in identical blue striped clothes that looked strangely like pyjamas. Fascinated by these strange people I found myself staring while they wondered lifelessly along the sharp cobbles. I had so many questions to ask about these strangers. Why were they barefoot? Why did they all wear the strange clothes when they surely had there own? And why oh why were they so sad? Their faces were so empty and alone as if they were a shell and the soul had been stolen. And the eyes. They were lifeless with no light or glimpse of life. There bones stuck out making them look close to skeletons and they were so pale. To a 13 year old child they looked like zombies from the horror books. Alive on the outside, But the inside was taken from them and replaced with rocks. Cold, sharp rocks.

After staring for a while I felt a prick in the hairs on the back of my neck. I turned to see a woman who looked older then me staring straight at me. She had paused in her work, her eyes boring into to me so much I felt uncomfortable. Looking at the woman I realised under all the dirt she was quite beautiful. She had once had hair which was now golden tufts and her eyes were a gorgeous blue that reminded me so much of something in the past. My mind was confused. Who was this girl staring at me so intensely and yet I felt like she was not an enemy? Do not laugh for I was young and my brain did not work for quite sometime until it finally dawned on me. I gasped. Lesley! But no it couldn’t be. Where was my Lesley? The stunning girl with golden hair down to her waist and blue eyes so full of life. This woman looked so sad and away from reality that the Lesley I knew was but a ghost trying to escape. What had this place done to her? Where was I? Hell?

We sat watching each other for quite sometime when I heard a loud drill bell ring. Immediately Lesley and all the other people stood straight and looked ahead. A man in a suit strolled along the gravel in his heavy cotton suit with big boots. He gave the impression that he owned the place and it was obvious everyone was very afraid of him. When he came to Lesley his eyes darkened. I realised that Lesley had not done any work since I had arrived and this definitely seemed to upset the show off. He shouted something at her in a foreign tongue I could not understand then before I could scream lifted his hand and slapped her across the face. She fell to the ground with such a thud that her whole body shook. The man stood over her shouting over and over in the strange foreign tongue. Lesley by this point was crying hard which angered the man more. I found myself to shedding tears. Who was this man who thought he had the right to go and hurt such an innocent person. Who ever he was I hated him forever for he seemed to have no heart. Did he not have any kind of guilt for the horrors he was performing? Did he not have children who he loved? Surely he would not want them to see him do such a vile deed? He turned and my blood turned cold. Yes he did have children for this man; this horrible, horrible man was Christopher Stöchem. My father. When I got home I didn’t say hello to my mother or put my belongings away. Instead I charged up to my bedroom, locking myself in. I had to leave. I couldn’t be there while he was still the leader of our house. Swiftly I packed clothes and toiletries into my satchel and set about writing my letter

My Dearest Mama,

When you read this I will have already left. I can’t be here while he still eats are food and drinks our money away. I can’t even say his name for I don’t wish to call him what I have for all my years. And I cannot be here when he has his job. For I saw what he does today, I saw his way of getting a wage. I cannot say what it is now for it breaks my heart to just think about it. Don’t look for me please for I will be safe. I plan to go around the world and explore its vast countries. Do you remember? Like they did in the story book that you used to read me.  I have packed all that is needed and I promise I will take care of myself. I know you love him and I am sorry that this may change that but i do believe it will be the best way.  Mama, you will be the one I miss the most.

Give my love to everyone but him

Maria xxx

I felt tears trickle down my cheek as I wrote but I couldn’t stop now. I waited all that evening for the time to come. I heard my father come home in what seemed like a good mood. I blazed with anger. He had abused someone who was innocent and yet this seemed to amuse him? How could he? When my mother called me down to dinner I closed my eyes and willed myself to go face him even though I was certain I’d lash out or say something stupid. I got downstairs and realised my father was pouring himself a large glass of whisky which angered me even more. How could he take such an expensive drink for granted when just a mile down the road people were starving? It just wasn’t right. I ate my dinner silently until my mother broke the silence with the same question she asked every night.

“So darling how was work?” I winced not bothering to listen to his reply when I found myself asking a very simple question,

“Papa what is your job?” I asked very innocently but my father instantly became defensive,

“Nothing you need to know my sweet. It isn’t any of your business.” I felt my face getting hotter and hotter. None of my business!? If anything this was all my business. Before I could stop myself I found my tongue lashing out again,

“None of my business?! How can you say that?” I cried

“Young lady do not speak to me in that tone! My work is very important and you have no need to be involved in it.”

“No need! She’s my friend papa and you didn’t even look sorry you just lashed out. Did you even care? Did it even occur to you that what you do is wrong?” I couldn’t continue because my father had hit me so hard that I found my self lying on the floor, blood running down from my forehead.

“Upstairs. Now!” He snarled a vein throbbing on his forehead. I didn’t need telling twice. I strode upstairs and started getting into my warm clothes. I put the covers right up to my head and tried to make it seem like I was asleep. After sometime my mother came in to say goodnight but I refused to look at her. I knew I would miss her and I was afraid of giving up if I saw her face.  As soon as she was gone I was out of the window and running along the street. Turning back I took my final glance of my home. I haven’t seen it since...

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