Paix – Magpie Tales

keithharing

My father is staring at me, hard.

It has been years since we spent any time alone. I had been a judgmental daughter, belligerent, unable to accommodate the shades of grey in a life that I was convinced could only consist of black or white, right or wrong

I had grown into an adult, still believing my teenage views.

The past few months had ripped the rug from underneath my feet.

“Not a traitor? Not a traitor?”

I see him with new eyes. He is just a man. Just a human being like the rest of us. He is not a monster, just like my mother was not a traitor. They had paid high prices for living through times when making the right decision depended on so many inconceivable and unimaginable horrors.

And I had judged them both with hindsight.

“No. Not a traitor.”

His body sags. I can’t tell if this is with relief, or despair.

He reaches out a hand, an old hand. He has aged since we last met. I take his hand and my index finger caresses the thin gold wedding band he still wears despite everything.

“Thank you for telling me, Celine. It will never bring her back and you may never forgive me for taking your mother away so brutally, but at least she never betrayed us.”

Semantics, I think. It is all but semantics.

——

Here’s my latest entry to Magpie Tales. This is the finale in my six part story which began in the midst of World War Two. Here are the fiveprevious instalments in order, if you want to indulge! Croix de Guerre, Collborateur, Oubliette, Verité and Honneur.

I hope you enjoy this week’s entry- and please do visit Magpie Tales for amazing poetry and prose!

 

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Honneur – Magpie Tales

taylor elizabeth giant

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.”

Yes.

“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!

 

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Tristesse – Magpie Tales

museum

“So, Celine, the day has finally come. Are you ready?”

My heart is racing, I feel light-headed. I know it is just nerves, but I am scared.

‘Don’t be silly,’ I cajole myself sharply. ‘You don’t know what real fear is, remember that!’

Dennis puts an arm lightly around my waist, his hand resting comfortably just above my hip. My best friend, my closest confidante, it is as if he can feel my inner turmoil

“The reviews from the historical societies, the Egyptologists, the international museum curators have been unanimous, my dear. It will all be just perfect. Ah, look, the big hand is on the twelve – opening time here we come!”

The museum clock strikes sonorously above our heads, 10 deep rings of the bell. Mr Adams, the doorman, pulls open the vast mahogany doors and a sigh rushes from my lips. The crowd outside the Nile Rooms is beyond my imaginings. My first solo curating experience, my first international collaboration – what a relief that the public also wants to know about the artefacts sourced from the depths of the Hidden Pyramids. I stare at the Boy King’s statue, glowing gold in its central spotlight. I hope I look as serene as he does.

The day passes in a whirl, the museum rings with the echo of constant footfall and awed whispers. It is just as I had hoped.

I am taking a rest, leaning against a wall behind one of the vast doors separating one exhibition room from another, when it happens.

A tall, elegant man, probably in his mid sixties, strides towards me, a look of shock, surprise and disbelief mingled on his striking features. He reaches out, takes my hand and bows. “F-fraulein?” Miss Sarah Masters? Mademoiselle Elodie DuPont?”

I stare. I haven’t heard these names for so long, not since my father had decided to confess to killing my mother all those years ago. I feel weak, oh, I need to sit down, I sag against the wall.

“No,” I whisper, looking around desperately for Dennis. Where is he? “She was my mother, Sarah Masters. Who are you?”

“Was? She is.. ah, tot? Dead?”

And I realise that it’s now my turn to be the bearer of bad news. Herr Gunther Weiss needs to understand his part in my mother’s murder.

 

——

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 four previous instalments in orderr: Croix de Guerre, Collborateur, Oubliette and Verité.

I hope you enjoy this week’s entry- and please do visit Magpie Tales for amazing poetry and prose!

 

magpie tales statue stamp 185