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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13. 13

If I had to pick one word to sum up Dover’s sole pawn shop, it would be dirty. Every surface was coated in a thin layer of the stuff, and Eleanor had to purse her lips to keep them shut when she accidentally brushed against a glass counter and smeared her skirt with grot.

“Morning, morning!” a man at the end of the long, narrow room called as the door jingled closed behind us, “buying or selling, m’dears?” He finished cleaning his glasses with the hem of his shirt before popping them on and squinting at us, smiling.

“Selling,” Frank said, removing the small blue box from his pocket and sliding it across the far table towards where the man was standing. Eleanor turned and stared at a selection of watches, so I put my arm around her and squeezed her shoulder.

“By Jove, sir,” the man breathed, “This is a gem.” Removing his glasses, he steamed them with his breath and rubbed the glass with his shirt again before putting them back on. He picked up the necklace and whistled, awestruck. “Real, I assume?”

“Yes, sir,” Frank said. “How much d’you think it’s worth?”

The man held up a finger before vanishing into a back room. There was a series of metallic clinks before he returned with a jeweller’s loupe, which he held in front of his eye, squeezing the other shut as he lifted the necklace closer to his face. His clucking tongue was the only sound in the shop, and the lack of distraction allowed the musty smell to overcome my senses.

“More than I have in this till, my son,” the man finally said, “Nothing that I could give you would come close.”

“Well, what can you give us?” Frank asked, glancing over at Eleanor and I, his fingers drumming against his thighs.

“I am an honest man, boy!” the man cried, “and any sum of money that I could give you in exchange for this item would be daylight robbery, boy!”

Frank leaned in close, whispering intently, just loud enough for me to hear.

“Look, we need anything we can get, and I don’t know who else would take this thing. It’s urgent, we can’t just skip out of town to the next pawn shop. We need this money now.”

The man shook his head solemnly, replacing the necklace to its box and pressing the lid back on. “There’s a jewellers not far from here,” he said, “they’ll take it.” He rested his hand upon Frank’s, which was splayed on the table, “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

Frank simply stared at the man with wide, conflicted eyes. He look drawn between annoyance and thankfulness for the man’s honesty. Eventually, after a period of staring down the broker while he nervously cleaned the lens of his loupe, Frank held out a hand and thanked him.

“You’re welcome, feel free to look around, if you wish.”

“I don’t think-” Eleanor had already started towards the door, and though the man was kind, I wasn’t especially keen on staying either, “sorry, where did you say this jewellers was?”

“I didn’t. When you leave the shop, turn right and walk down Barnaby Road until you reach the post office, then it’s the next left turn down another road; shop’s there. It’s called Tolby’s Treasure’s. Tolby will be able to help you, I’m sure. Positive that you won’t take a look around, sir?”

I hadn’t the chance to hear Frank politely decline the offer, because Eleanor had already dragged me out of the shop, her fingers surreptitiously pinching her nose. I slapped her hand down lightly, though I was glad of the cool afternoon breeze as it rushed into my lungs.

“You can’t do that!” I whispered as Frank exited and lead us right down the road. He handed Eleanor a pair of large, dark sunglasses.

“I had a couple of farthings in my coat and I remembered you saying you should buy some,” Frank said, shrugging as Eleanor hugged him tightly. “Sorry I couldn’t get you any, Hanna, they only had one pair.”

“S’fine,” I said, hunting for the post office whilst Frank laughed at how silly Eleanor looked with most of her face hidden by two, large black circles.

“Don’t be mean, Frank!” Eleanor said, giggling as she swatted his shoulder. She peered at her reflection in a shop window and pouted, resting one hand on her hip. “I think they look rather glamorous. Be truthful, Frank! They do look glamorous, don’t they?” She weaved her left arm into his right and smiled winningly up at him, “don’t lie now!”

“Ellie they’re perfect,” he said, kissing her forehead, “you look gorgeous.”

“Glamorous, Frank.”

“Gorgeous- glamorous, you really are nit-picking aren’t you, El!” he said, smiling, “here’s the post office.”

We took the next left and continued down the road until we arrived outside Tolby’s Treasures, a quaint blue shop with striped awning.

“This is more like it,” Eleanor said, walking in without a second thought. The inside was just as nice, every white surface clean to the point of sterility. Various items of jewellery glittered from their glass cases; diamond rings, sapphire studded bangles and emerald earrings all boasted hefty price tags. The man behind the counter wore a pressed navy suit and grinned with pearly teeth as he greeted us, tipping his trilby at Eleanor and I.

“Customers! Wonderful, wonderful. What can I do for you?” he asked, skirting out from behind the counter to shake Frank’s hand.

“We have something to sell, and were told that you might be able to buy it from us.”

“Well that’s a lie,” Eleanor said, staring at her nails, “we were told that you would definitely buy it from us.”

The suited man raised an inquisitive eyebrow, “may I see the item?”

“Oh, yeah,” Frank said, fumbling for the box before handing it over. The man brought it back over to the counter and swiftly withdrew his loupe from drawer before opening the box.

“Boy oh boy, this is beautiful,” he said, tilting the box from side to side, watching it glitter, “Let me check it.”

There was a long, tense wait whilst we waited to discover whether the jeweller’s deductions would be the same as the pawn broker’s. Eleanor was in her element here though, gazing at all of the beautiful jewellery with a light in her eyes.

“It’s real, alright,” the jeweller said, placing the necklace back onto the counter. “What are you asking?”

“Um, will you buy it?” Frank asked. The jeweller laughed raucously, the palm of his hand on his stomach. “What?” Frank asked.

“Of course I’ll buy it, it’s beautiful!” The jeweller cried, “What I want to know is how much you want me to pay for it. What’s your asking price?

“Eleanor, how much d’it cost you?” Frank asked. Eleanor dragged her eyes away from a glittering tiara that was rested atop the severed head of a mannequin and frowned.

“There’s no way I’m telling you, Frank, gosh!”

Frank looked about to answer back testily but the jeweller was laughing gain, clutching his ribs. It was both comic and frightening the way that his smile stretched across most of his face, and his eyebrows arched as though they’d been painted on. I gulped and looked away, unsure about what my face was showing.

“Of course, of course. How silly of me! Come here dear, whisper it in my ear if you don’t mind, then I can make you an informed offer.”

Eleanor smiled a little and raised her eyebrows at Frank as she stepped past him. Frank crossed his arms and stared at the ceiling, shaking his head as Eleanor stood on the tips of her toes to whisper in the jeweller’s ear. The jeweller whistled appreciatively and nodded as Eleanor continued to mumble longer than was necessary to tell him the price.

“Really?” he asked, as she rested back onto her heels.

“Oh yes,” she said in her sweetest voice.

“Well then, let me see what I can do for you.” The jeweller vanished up a narrow staircase as Eleanor rocked back and forth on her feet, her hands clutched behind her back. She was the picture of innocence if you didn’t know her, but if you did, she looked positively devilish.

“What’d you tell him, El?” Frank asked, pulling at his collar. When I first saw him I thought that Frank looked a smart, respectable man, but he seemed out of his depth here, where the smudge of a fingerprint on a glass surface would be instantly noticed and everything was just so darn valuable. I felt even more at odds with this environment than he looked, and I couldn’t help but start picking the dirt out of my nails as soon as the jeweller had left. I then spat on my hands, getting rid of any smears of filth from the pawn shop.

“There’s a reason I was whispering, Frank,” Eleanor said, rolling her eyes.

“Don’t be like that, Ellie, we share everything.”

“Everything? I don’t think so,” she said, glancing over at me. They might have shared everything before, but now that I was here, there was plenty that Frank didn’t know about Eleanor.

“Well, yeah”

“Kinda takes away the mystery though, doesn’t it? Knowing everything?”

“Who needs mystery?”

“I do!” Eleanor exclaimed, skipping up towards him and leaning close to his face, her lips almost brushing his, “I think it’s positively gorgeous.”

Frank frowned as she whisked away to the other side of the shop, staring again at the tiara on a severed head as the gentle thud of the jewellers leather shoes came back down the stairs. He stood behind a counter and lay an envelope down, before beckoning Eleanor over with his finger.

Eleanor nodded as he spoke in her ear, then said, “Yes, that’d be swell. Thank you.”

The jeweller smiled, taking the box from the counter and slipping it into a drawer, before handing the thick envelope to Eleanor.

“Pleasure doing business with you,” he said.

“And you.”

For me, it was just as relieving to be out of that shop as it had been to leave the pawn shop. Somehow, I would have preferred to sell the necklace to the grotty pawn broker who declared himself an ‘honest man’ than the jeweller who, in his very nature, made me shiver. Eleanor came out looking pleased, a wad of money in her hand.

“Look!” she cried, “I did it, I gave it up.” Her sentence drifted into near silence at the end. It seemed as though, in the heat of being somewhere that she truly loved every aspect of, she had forgotten what she was doing, and what she would be leaving behind as we left the store.

I strode over to Eleanor and wrapped my arms around her. Her head buried into my shoulder and still she didn’t cry. She was stronger than I thought, stronger than me, for sure.

It was both a solemn and a celebratory moment. We had enough money to move on, but we had lost something that meant a lot to Eleanor, simply because if she had had the opportunity to give it to me, it would have meant a lot to me, too.

That was when we heard it, a dull roar coming from Barnaby Road, and when we felt it, a wobble in the ground.

“Sounds like London,” Eleanor smiled, “what on earth is that?”

The roar was flexing in pitch and tone in unison, like something was being chanted, though every now and then there was a shout that broke from the confines of this rhythm, pushing to be heard above the rest of the voices.

I felt like a stone had been pushed down my throat, forcing a lump there and settling in my stomach, weighing me down with fear. The roar gained volume. Eleanor was no longer smiling.

Frank stood between us and took my right hand and Eleanor’s left, taking a step back. Then a memory struck me, a demonstration.

I dug the piece of paper out of my pocket, the first words jumping out at me, holding my gaze.

Today’s date.

Beneath, the paper read:

 

DEMONSTRATION FOR THE UNEMPLOYED
WE WILL NO LONGER STARVE IN SILENCE
WE HAVE EARNED OUR RIGHT TO WORK
AND WE WILL TAKE IT.

 

The only demonstration that I had ever witnessed was the one on Ten Downing Street in 1920, which had caught me on my paper route. The crowd had been saturated with ex-military officers with badges on their chests and guns in their hands. As he strode past me, a man nearly dropped a hand grenade that he had been throwing up and catching like a ball.

It was difficult to get away from, difficult for screams to be heard above the clamour, and difficult to forget.

“We have to get out of here,” I said, as a trio of men began marching down the road we were on. An umbrella was used to smash the window of a shop and I distinctly heard the words, “thanks for nothing!”

I started walking backwards but Frank and Eleanor weren’t following me, simply staring ahead as the three men were joined by a hoard of men and women, pumping their fists into the air and chanting words that I couldn’t hear over the ringing in my own ears.

“These don’t happen in Dover,” Eleanor said, before wrenching her hand out of Frank’s and running away from the demonstration, towards the coast.

I thought to myself as we ran together, that demonstrations of this mass wouldn’t normally occur here, but people were angry everywhere, and if had I been in London, counting the farthings that I had left to buy vegetables from the market and a crowd like this had passed my window, preaching the right to eat and work, I probably would have joined them.

But today was not the day, not with so much money in Eleanor’s hands.

Frank was running too, now, and caught up to us quickly, pressing his hands on the smalls of our backs to urge us onwards, through a labyrinth of streets and small alleyways, following the smell of salt.

On a small path between two shops, we bumped into two women, both with sneers on their faces and signs in their hands. Eleanor dropped the envelope, and notes punctuated with green and red scattered across the ground.

“I’m so sorry,” Eleanor muttered, bending down to scoop the money from the ground.

“Stop there,” the larger of the two women said, licking her lips. “That’s a lot of money for such a young group o’ kiddy’s.”

Eleanor stood up slowly, pocketing the envelope and what was left in there, but leaving the strewn notes on the cobbles.

“We’re not looking for any trouble…” Frank said, stepping forward and pushing Eleanor behind him. The woman smiled apologetically, shrugging and raising her sign.

“That’s a shame,” she said, “’cause we are.”

She withdrew a gun from her back pocket and pointed it between Frank’s eyes. Frank didn’t speak, but his eyes widened and he gently puffed out a lungful of air. Eleanor screamed at the sight of a gun as Frank and I lifted our hands in submission.

“Please,” I said, “I’m like you, I-”

“You are nothin’ like me!” the woman shouted, pointing the gun at me, “carrying a wad o’ cash ‘round like it’s nothin’.”

“I am, I swear! We only have that money ‘cause we need it for a ferry, we’re leaving the country. I swear, this isn’t, you know, pocket money or something.”

“Are you going to leave or what?” she shouted, and her friend, the silent partner, rested an arm on her shoulder and whispered.

“Edith, what are you doing?”

“Don’t, Mary. If it’s this girl’s life or my baby’s, you know who I’ll choose. That one the floor, there, that could feed Eddy for a month!”

“Edith…”

The gun was shaking.

“Please,” Frank said, sweat beading his brow, “We need that money just as much as you do.”

“Really?” she spat, “do you have starving children at home?”

“N-no,” he said, “but our lives are in danger if we don’t leave.”

“Don’t lie!” she shouted, pointed the gun down and shot the pavement at Frank’s feet. The stone burst into an explosion of gravel and dust and we all screamed, even Mary who was cowering behind her dominating friend. Edith glared at us through the dust and we turned, running away from the woman who was battling for her livelihood, and into a thousand other people who were doing the same.

It was immediate. As soon as we left the alley I could no longer find Frank or Eleanor among the crushing crowd.

“Eleanor!” I shouted, “Frank!”

I was there all over again, twelve years old on the street of the Prime Minister’s house, calling for my mother and father as feet bore down on me.

“Eleanor! Ellie? Frank?”                                              

I pressed my back against a doorway and climbed the two steps that lead to the entrance of the building. I stood on the tips of my toes, shouting, screaming for the only people that I knew in the entire town.

“Oh god,” I whispered, a sound that not even I could hear as the horde overcame me and I slid down the wall and pressed my face into my knees.

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