Elizabeth Taylor, Set of “Giant”, by Frank Worth.
“But my dear Fraulein Celine, your mother was no traitor! Nein, this is not true.”
I scrutinise Herr Weiss, taking advantage of my mirrored sunglasses to stare hard at him. Here we are, sitting at a pleasant terrace cafe, bathing in the warmth of an early summer’s evening. I imagine that to any passer-by who gives us no more than a cursory glance, we look like a father and daughter enjoying a leisurely coffee together
“My father told me that she was a traitor. That she had to be shot. That he had to do it.” I spit the words at him. not caring how brutal and hurtful they might be. I owe him nothing, after all.
Herr Weiss leans forward, reaching out to place one of his hands on mine. Instead of just resting it there lightly, he grasped my wrist hard, shaking it to make his point. “No! It was not she who was the traitor. It was me!”
He raises his eyebrows, peering at me, trying to see my eyes through my sunglasses. I remove them. This is not the time for power play.
Suddenly, the penny drops. It is the best and the worst realisation. “You? You were working with the Resistance too? You? An officer in the German Arm?”
He nods slowly. “Yes.”
Relief washes over me. I still cannot forget the day that Dad told me what happened during the war, how my mother had been a traitor, how he had been left with no choice but to shoot her. Yet, this new truth meant that she had died for no reason.
“But how could my father not know? Why did he believe this terrible thing about my mother, his own wife?”
Herr Weiss shrugged. “I begged and begged her to clarify this with him, to tell him. But she refused. She told me, ‘Gunther, everything we do is on a need to know basis, and this he does not need to know.’ She was so strong, so determined, so brave, so focused on the ultimate goal. She was an incredibly strong woman, Fraulein. You should be proud of her.”
I am. I finally am. I scrutinise the man sitting before me, who is tapping the table nervously. There is something else. I can feel it, see it. “She was in love with you.” It is a statement, not a question.
He bows his head, cannot look me in the eye. “Yes, and I with her. That was her betrayal, and she paid the ultimate price. I think it is for this that she would not tell her husband. I think she could not have told him a half-truth.”
“Herr Weiss, Gunther. I will tell my father that my mother was not a traitor.”
“But not about her betrayal of him?”
“No. He does not need to know.”
Sometimes, the truth is best left unsaid.
Here’s my latest entry to Magpie Tales. It’s a continuation of what was going to be a trilogy, then seemed to expand and take on a life of its own! Here are the five previous instalments in orderr: Croix de Guerre, Collborateur, Oubliette, Verité and Tristesse.
I hope you enjoy this week’s entry- and please do visit Magpie Tales for amazing poetry and prose!