Hannelore

It's 1926, and Hannelore Bauer is an English girl of German descent, who must battle through the prejudice and discrimination from the left over tensions of The Great War to fulfill her dream of becoming a dancer and moving to Paris.
This is a story of forbidden love, loss of the things that matter most, holding on to your dreams with a vice-like grip and overcoming everything to dance.

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10. 10

I started to run as soon as the plane touched the ground, as fast as I could I ran even though I couldn’t breathe, even though the officer shouted for me to stay put I ran until I thudded into the side of the plane.

“What are you doing, who’s that?” Frank asked, bewildered as he jumped out. Eleanor stayed inside, seeming as though she had been possessed by a ghoul she looked so stricken with worry.

“Who is that, Hanna?” Eleanor whispered. I climbed up onto the wing of the plane, leaned over and hugged her, whispering in her ear.

“He knows, he knows about Jonny. Your name is Eleanor White, but I call you Ellie. You are an orphan, you live with me, okay? That’s all I’ve told him. I don’t know what to do, Eleanor.” I pulled away, “I don’t know what to do.”

Frank, who hadn’t heard the hurried whispers, took my place on the wing to unbuckle Eleanor while I turned back to the officer, who was but metres away, red in the face with a mixture of heat and fury.

“It is rather unwise to disobey an officer of the law, young lady,” he growled, “now step back.”

“I’m ever so sorry,” I said, stepping a pace or two backwards as I was told, “but Ellie, Frank just wants her to love flying so bad and this is her first trip. I wanted to make sure she was-”

“That’s enough of that,” the officer said, effectively shushing me. “If I could have a word with Eleanor alone?

Eleanor shot me a startled look as she landed safely back on the ground and gave the officer her sweetest expression.

“Is there a problem, officer?”

“There most certainly is, Miss. There have been some allegations, and I am here to follow them up and decide whether they should continue into a full investigation. Now, a moment, alone?”

“I’m afraid that can’t happen,” Frank said, stepping between the officer and Eleanor, “morning, Frank Swallow.” He held out his hand for the officer to shake and for an absurd moment I thought that he was going to kiss it, but he shook it and greeted the officer in a far more formal manner than he had Eleanor or I.

“Why might that be?” the officer asked, his chest swelling in indignation.

“You see sir, I can’t help but be rather protective over my kid sister,” he wrapped his arm around Eleanor’s shoulder, “and I don’t like her wandering off with strangers.”

“I am an officer of the law,” he spat.

“And I recognise that, I really do, just- let me come with her?”

The officer’s moustache quivered, but he must have decided that allowing him was the only way to proceed without an undue arrest, and so he eventually conceded.

The officer, Frank and Eleanor walked away from me, towards the thin dirt lane that the Hackney carriage had dropped us off on. I strolled to the far end of it, where the main road met the entrance of the field, wringing my fingers as I walked past Frank’s camera and wandered what the three were talking about.

Perhaps five minutes later, the Hackney carriage rolled down the lane, the same driver as before. Upon seeing the group a short ways in front of him he started and cracked his whip, pulling the horse to a halt.

“Ma’am,” the man said, looking towards me but not meeting my gaze. Ahead, Frank had taken Eleanor’s hand, and Eleanor was shouting at the officer, who I could almost feel getting angrier with every passing second. The driver looked towards them too, and clenched his whip harder. Then, I had an idea, and hoped with all my heart that Eleanor, or even better, Frank, would know what I was trying to do.

“I’ve no idea what’s going on over there,” I said to the driver, fanning my face with my hand as Eleanor had done and sighing. “It is a lovely day though, and it’s be a shame to waste it. My friend over there, Frank, has a camera not far away, see it?” I pointed to the black triangle poking up from the grass. The driver nodded tersely and glanced back at the now explicitly arguing group.

“I wonder,” I continued, trying to draw his attention away from the scene, “do you think you could come over a second and take a picture of me with that plane in the background? I would be so grateful.” I was putting on my job voice, trying to be innocent and amiable.

The driver took a moment or two to absorb the sentence, before reluctantly agreeing and clambering from his throne atop the carriage.

“Oh I can’t thank you enough!” I said, stroking his arm as I walked with him towards the camera. We were both looking at the group again, and as we did, the officer withdrew an item from his belt which flashed in the sunlight. Handcuffs.

Frank wrenched Eleanor back turned towards the driver and I. We were more than thirty yards from the carriage now and Frank began to run, holding Eleanor’s hand, pulling her along with him whilst the officer screamed at them to ‘come back at once!’

The Hackney driver was stunned into stillness as Frank and Eleanor closed the distance to the carriage until they were closer than us. Then I began to run, too. I was there in seconds, jumping into the compartment with Eleanor and hearing the thump of Frank as he took the seat of the driver then whipped the horse into movement.

The real driver, the man who must have called the police from a telephone box, ran right into the side of the carriage, and Eleanor and I screamed as we kicked him away amid the terrifying cries of the police officer who was losing us because he wasn’t fit enough to keep up.

“I know who you are!” the driver called, spitting blood towards the carriage where one of us had kicked him in the teeth. “I’ve been to that rancid bloody Crimson club of yours and I was there that night so don’t believe that you can get away from this. Don’t think for one second that you can get away from this.”

Eleanor was crying, her arms wrapped around me and her fingers pressed hard into my back. Drawing our feet deep into the heart of the carriage, I saw the thick trail of blood left by her shoe, and the fine spray of red that speckled her legs. Her entire body heaved with shock and grief and I clutched her tight, wrapping an arm around her head in the hope that she wouldn’t be able to hear the continuing curses of the driver and the officer.

Suddenly, the carriage started moving at full speed and Eleanor and I were thrown back, my head banging against the wooden seat. I cried out, and as I felt for a lump on the back of my head, my fingers were immersed in a warm, slick liquid. My breath drew in and caught, but with Eleanor holding me ever harder, I knew that I could not scream, but that maybe I could cry.

I tugged a rag from the bottom of my cardigan, and hoped that the rip would not be heard over the roar of spinning wheels. I took the rag and wrapped it as many times around my head as I could, then tied it firmly, like a do-rag. I felt behind my head again and knew that a red patch was pooling in the brown.

I bit down on my lip and squeezed my eyes shut, forcing out a tear, and leaned into Eleanor’s shoulder. The shouts had dissipated into the wind, but we were far from out of danger.

Above us, Frank lashed his whip and the carriage came to a skeleton-jolting halt. Eleanor and I rushed forward across the floor, but I pushed my feet against the wall to stop us both from crashing into it.

Frank jumped directly from the roof to the inside of the carriage, legs first. The neat curls of his hair were now stuck out at all angles, and he looked more windswept than he had after travelling the skies.

“Are you two okay?” he asked, breathless. There was no need for an answer, Eleanor could still only force out irregular, laboured breathing, and as the hand clutching the back of my head dropped to my side, the blood coating my fingers was clear. My breath shuddered as I nodded, and Frank crossed the small space, stooping, and took my hand, leading me outside.

The carriage had been stopped in a cul-de-sac surrounded by houses. I noticed a curtain flicker on my right and tried to ignore it as Frank rushed Eleanor and I fast as he could, out of the road ad onto the main street.

“Either of you wearing a scarf?” Frank asked, looking over at us, “great.” He swiftly removed the plain brown scarf from Eleanor’s neck and briefly paused to wrap it around her head before taking us forward again.

“There’s a station just up here,” Frank said, pointing forwards at a dull station sign a way up the road. “Are you alright, Hanna?”

I looked at him and my vision blurred either through tears or pain. I did not have the energy to reply, and my knees collapsed, sinking me to the ground even as Frank reached out to catch me.

“Hannelore?” Eleanor cried, crouching down, “oh god Hannelore, what have you done?”

I groaned as I took a hold of Frank and dragged myself to my feet.

“I’m fine,” I whispered through shivering lips, “we have to go.”

Eleanor conceded and we walked in silence in various states of pain and grief. Eleanor hugged close to me on my right, her eyes almost embarrassingly fixated on my face, whereas Frank held my shoulders and walked on my left, hurrying Eleanor and I forwards and bringing us ever closer to the station sign.

When we approached the ticket office, the man in the box gasped at the sight of us.

“My god, you need a doctor!”

“No,” Frank said, “she doesn’t. What she needs, my friend and I included, is a train ticket.”

The man looked flustered. His skin was pale, almost sickly, and his eyes somewhat sallow. I felt bad for him, insisting that I needed a doctor when he seemed like he was also in need of one, but I didn’t open my mouth to speak. I felt as though I were closely surrounded by water on all sides. Sounds were muted, sights were blurred and my limbs were light.

“A train ticket?” the man said, “I don’t know if I can-”

“Look,” Frank said, slapping his hand on the desk in from of him and leaning forward, “a train ticket is far more helpful to her than a doctor right now, so please, please, sell them to us?” His voice rose in a plea, and the ticket seller’s brow creased with worry as he asked us where we wanted to go.

“I don’t know,” Frank said, looking at Eleanor and I in turn, then back to the man when neither of us responded. “What’s cheapest?”

“Well,” the man pulled open a draw and withdrew a battered piece of paper, “this is the Southern Railway so your main choices include London-”

“No.”

“Good thing that’s not the only place this train goes,” the man said, laughing nervously, “You’ve also got Dover, Brighton and Southampton as your hotspots.”

Cheapest?” Frank said, through gritted teeth.

“Ah, well, the closer it is the cheaper the fare, so cheapest to most expensive would be Southampton, then Brighton, then Dover.”

“Southampton then,” Frank said, and was just digging his hands into his pockets for the cash when Eleanor released me and leaned on the desk next to Frank, glaring at him with her puffy, tearstained face.

“Dover,” she said, then, “trust me.”

Frank paused, counting the coins in his hand. “You got money?”

At this, Eleanor smiled and withdrew a handful of coins from her purse, dropping them all onto the counter in a loud clatter of metal.

“Is that enough?” she asked, looking behind her, “is it?”

The man looked like he simply wanted to be out of our company and nodded hastily.

“Yes, yes, I should think so.” He printed out our tickets and handed them to us, “the next train to Dover leaves in just under twenty minutes, enjoy your journey with Southern Rail, a proud member of the Big Four.”

I was dragged away by Frank and Eleanor as I looked quizzically to the man, mouthing Big Four?

We took our seats at the platform and waited for what felt like an eternity while the station filled with businessmen and holidaymakers waiting for their train. We received a fair amount of strange stares which bothered me more and more as my head cleared, until a little girl being carried by her mother pointed a chubby finger at Eleanor and said, ‘mamma it’s her, it’s her!’

The mother looked at us and sighed, lightly pushing her daughters arm so that it pointed to the ground.

“I’m ever so sorry,” the mother said, “I don’t know who my dau’er finks you are but she should know that pointin’ is very rude.” The little girl pouted and crossed her arms as the mother apologised again and took her daughter and their bags towards the far end of the platform, where she would find more empty seats.

“Who…” I paused to breathe as I turned to Eleanor, “who’s she think you are? There can’t be… wanted posters. Not yet.”

Eleanor rested her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. “No. Not yet. M-maybe a poster outside a theatre? I don’t know.” She turned to Frank, and looked set to sob again. “I should probably explain,” she mumbled, but Frank ignored her. “Frank?”

“Please don’t, Ellie. I can’t hear that right now,” he said, then stood up and walked away. Eleanor was close to tears again, but there was nothing that I could do to comfort her. The pain in my head was refusing to numb and it was all I could do no to swear and cry instead of rolling my neck and quietly groaning.

“Oh god Hannelore I’m so sorry,” Eleanor said as the train pulled into the station. I didn’t know what to say because, like Frank, I just couldn’t hear it. I forced myself to think that it was either Eleanor’s life or the ruination of my own and potentially Frank’s.

The choice was not as easy as I had hoped that it would be, and I climbed aboard the train, had my ticket punched by the conductor and found a seat without a single utterance.

Eleanor’s tears splashed onto the cold concrete as she followed me.

*

The journey was long, with silence between Frank, Eleanor and I but not among the rest of the carriage. We walked quickly and kept low when we had to switch trains in London, and having to dodge one unexpected police officer was particularly frightening.

“I need you to let me explain,” Eleanor whispered over our table when we had reached the point where we were no longer changing trains and were headed directly to Dover. Frank was beside me, removing the makeshift bandages to check my head. His breath sucked in at the sight of the blood and he ignored her.

“It’s hard to see the actual wound through this mess,” he said, smiling weakly, “but I don’t think it’s that bad. Head injuries bleed a lot, are you dizzy?”

“Yes, almost definitely.”

“Almost,” Frank repeated, smiling again, “do you remember what happened to you?”

“Of course, why?”

“Honestly, I’m not sure, but these are the questions my old man used to ask whenever I hit my head as a kid so we’ll roll with it, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Frank,” Eleanor said.

“Please.” Frank closed his eyes, not even looking at her, “haven’t I done enough for you today?”

Eleanor buried her face in her hands and shook, crying. I would have liked to have said that I found it difficult to build up a sense of pity for her, but it was an effort not to hold her and rock her to sleep.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” Frank asked me.

“Five.”

“Now?”

“Seven.”

“And now?”

“Two- honestly, what is this?”

“I’m just checking you’re okay. Now, can you tell me how many fingers I was holding up the first time?

“Five.”

“Brilliant,” he said, “and what day is it Hanna?”

“Sunday, my day off work.”

“That’s great. And is anything bothering you? Brightness, loud noises, a headache, do you feel sick?”

“No, no, yes, because that would be unusual, and no. Well, a bit, but I reckon that’s to do with circumstances, not my head.”

“Thought as much,” Frank said, “that’s all I can remember of what my dad would say but I think you’ll be alright. Do you feel alright?” he asked, studying my eyes.

“You’re a real all round guy, aren’t you?” I said, smiling a little dumbly at him, “gentleman, pilot, outlaw and now doctor.”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Frank said, leaning back into his seat, “dear lord what have I got myself into?”

“Our life,” I said, but Eleanor shook her head.

“My life,” she said.

I leaned forward onto the table and closed my eyes, silently disagreeing with her.

“Just do me one favour, Hanna,” Frank said into my ear.

“Mm?”

“Don’t fall asleep.”

*

The chilly wind of Dover crept down my collar like icy fingers but I breathed in the wintry air with an overwhelming sensation of relief. Frank, though he hadn’t spoken to Eleanor, had his arm around her shoulder as we left the station, either to hide her face or because he had forgiven her in some secret exchange I didn’t know about, and at that moment I wasn’t entirely bothered about knowing.

“Looks like we made it,” Frank said, as we walked down the maze of small streets until we had an unobstructed view of the sea. “What do we do now?”

“Food?” Eleanor asked, eyeing a small corner café that we had just passed, “I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”

Still feeling slightly nauseated, I shrugged my shoulders, but Frank seemed to think that it was a good idea so we headed inside, wisps of sand curling around our feet as we brushed them on the welcome mat.

“I’ve got to get Hanna cleaned up in the bathroom. Do you think you could order for us, think she could order for us?” he asked, directing the separate questions at each of us.

“I think it will be fine,” Eleanor said, “but after this I should probably buy myself some sunglasses.” She laughed a laugh that was really more of a sniff and joined the short queue to the counter while Frank and I went into the loos. Frank had to walk awfully close to me to hide the back of my head, and slipped into the women’s bathroom when he judged that no one was looking. It wasn’t too difficult; on a day at the seaside when it’s not sunny I expect that most people stayed at home.

One wide mirror almost filled the expansive wall opposite the stalls, and for a moment it was difficult to recognize myself amid the dirtied clothes, blood matted hair and generally bedraggled countenance.

“Bloody hell,” I whispered, stepping closer as I reached up and touched my face in the glass. In the space of three or so hours I looked to have aged half a dozen years. My eyes were weary and bloodshot, the skin around them red and puffy, like a balloon with not quite enough air in it. I poked the soft skin. The comical circles had faded away, none of the morning remained.

“It’s not that bad,” Frank said, and started untying the rag around my head. I winced and whimpered as the dried blood stuck fast to my scalp and Frank peeled it off gingerly, asking a different question every few seconds.

“Are you alright? Shall I carry on? Are you sure you’re alright?”

Each time I nodded and whispered ‘yes’, and Frank scooped up some water from the tap and pressed his cool hand to my head, gently weakening the material’s bond on my hair and skin.

“That’s it,” he said five minutes later, “all done.”

He held the soiled rag at arm’s length and I recoiled when I saw it.

“Throw it away, please,” I said, another wave of nausea flushing over me. I turned around and bent my head over the sink, my hand gripping the edge so tight that the white of bone shone through the skin. I coughed and moaned, but I didn’t throw up as Frank held my hair back and whispered in my ear that it would be all right, and it would all be over soon.

I stood up and shook my head, wiping a tear from my cheek.

“No, no it won’t be over soon.”

Frank helped me to wash the blood from my hair and we thankfully discovered that the wound was not nearly as big as the sheer volume of gore suggested, and that it had, some time ago it seemed, stopped bleeding.

Back in the café, after Frank had covertly snuck out of the ladies bathroom after me, Eleanor was sat at a table, picking at an apple muffin with Frank’s full English breakfast at her side. Frank rubbed his hands and smiled.

“You’re a darling, Ellie,” he said. Eleanor smiled and stared at her muffin.

“I didn’t know what to get you, Hanna, so I got you a muffin and two slices of bacon.”

I didn’t think that I could stomach either, but I smiled and sat down at my place. I picked up a slice of bacon with my finger and nibbled on the end. It was surprisingly good, comfortingly warm and far more delicious than any of the food that I had at home. Before I knew it I had wolfed down both pieces and made a start on the muffin. Then I remembered, and after rummaging through my bag I found the slightly stale cut of bread that would have been my breakfast had the life of one Eleanor Wright not caught up with me. I sighed and dropped it back in, brushing the crumbs from my fingers onto my skirts.

“We need to talk,” Eleanor said, and cut through Frank’s inevitable ‘no’ before it could escape his lips, “we have to, I have to. Please Frank, let me explain.”

And so she explained, beginning with a part of the story that even I had never heard before.

“Jonny was never nice to me, Frank, he bullied me, struck me and paraded me in front of his buddies like a new toy. I hated it Frank, I really did, but I couldn’t get away from him. After the girls in the theatre had abandoned me, he was the only one left to dance with and dancing is all I have, Frank.

“Then, one day, we had finished our set at the Crimson Cabaret, and when he took me round backstage to collect our things, there were these men waiting for us. They were friends of his, he said, and therefore friends of mine as well.” Eleanor was crying quietly, but carried on.

“And he said, ‘you know what friends do, don’t you El? They do each other favours.’” At this she choked, trying to force the building lump out of her throat so that she could explain, explain to Frank why she had been accused of killing a man, why she had killed a man.

“Then one of his friends stepped closer to me, and he was leering Frank, it was awful, terrifying.

“So I ran. I climbed the steps two at a time and the only reason Jonny didn’t catch me straight away was because he wasn’t expecting it. He thought I was some sort of pet or- or slave. I suppose up to that moment… he was right. But he caught up to me eventually and I thought he was going to kill me, I really did. He kept on saying ‘how dare you set me up like that. Disrespectin’ me like I’m your father. I’m all you have. I’m all you’ll ever have…”

Frank looked dumbfounded as Eleanor collapsed into shuddering, shaking, quaking tears.

“He really was going to kill her, Frank,” I said whispered, “he had his hands around her neck, and I was close by. I couldn’t do nuthin’, so I rammed him to the floor and-”

I killed him!” Eleanor wailed.

Frank stood up, the wooden legs of his chair scraping noisily across the floor as the last of the cutlery clattered against crockery and voices dropped from a dull roar to nothing. Eleanor was incapacitated, heaving with heavy sobs that seemed deafening in the dense air that surrounded us.

A man across the café also stood up and stared at Frank, who grasped Eleanor under her shoulders and hauled her out of her seat, almost dragging her out of the café.

“I’m so sorry,” Eleanor whispered, pushing herself out of Frank’s grasp and stumbling along the path on her own two feet, “It’s hard to h-hold that kind of thing in.”

"We have to get out of here,” Frank muttered, as the man who had stood up in the café left and stood on the path, staring at us, solid as a house, arms crossed.

The three of us turned as many corners as we could until we found a small bed and breakfast far from the café and the coast. Eleanor and I waited outside whilst Frank ventured in to buy our rooms with the last of Eleanor’s money.

“Are you okay?” I asked, watching Eleanor as she stared at the sky with wide, glazed eyes. She bit her lip and squeezed her eyes closed, breathing slowly. It took her a while to respond, as though calculating each individual word.

“I don’t think so.”

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