Zoe sat at the kitchen table and looked down at the dark wooden top, deep in thought. She was sitting in the house of her mama’s murderer. God was mocking her --He had to be for her to end up here. Being a servant to the murderer’s daughter, or was that his stepdaughter? Zoe didn’t know what to believe or who to believe. Father Haralambos was not going to lie to her; there was no reason for it and he was a man of God. Despite losing her faith in God, Zoe still respected the priest. She couldn’t fault him for believing in a cruel God who had robbed her of everything. No. Father Haralambos had been like a father to her, and for that she wasn’t going to thank God. God had nothing to do with it. Nor did He have anything to do with the kindness and love that was shown to her by Kiria Despina --the older woman had looked out for her and became her adopted aunt. Zoe seldom bestowed the honorific ‘aunty’ to anyone she didn’t feel was deserving of that honor, but she felt Despina had earned that title. Greeks were very quick to bestow the term ‘aunt’ or ‘grandma’ but Zoe didn’t think it was right to honor someone because they had lived longer than she had. Respect was earned as far as she was concerned.
"What are you muttering to yourself about, child?" Despina came round the table and sat down. She set down the tray table that had some toast and two eggs on a plate.
"I wasn’t thanking God for Father Haralambos and you," Zoe explained with a slight smile when she saw Despina’s exasperated look.
"You must not mock God."
"Really? Why not?"
"He is the Almighty--"
"Almighty who sits on his hands, you mean? He is responsible for all of this." Zoe flayed her hands up in the air. "He is responsible for not listening to our prayers. Remember those?"
"We prayed this day would not come. We did. We prayed, we lit candles, we prostrated ourselves on the ground and we begged. What did that get us? It got us war, it got us death."
Despina put her arm around Zoe’s shoulders and leaned in for a kiss. "You have not lost everything. You have me and Father Haralambos, and we both love you a great deal."
"Hm." Zoe nodded and then gazed at Despina with a smile. "I love you too and I’m sorry you have to work for these demons."
"Not all of them are demons. Especially young Eva."
"What? It’s the truth."
"We need to have a talk about that later. Take the tray up to Eva. She should be up now even though they had a late night."
"Why, what? Why should you take up the tray? You are taking the tray up because you’re her maid now."
Zoe sighed. "I know that, but why did they have a late night?"
Despina smiled at Zoe. "Sometimes, even in a war zone, there is some happiness. She got engaged to Captain Reinhardt last night."
"Oh." Zoe nodded as she got up from her seat. She placed a towel over the tray and looked back at Despina. "Reinhardt must not mind that she’s a cripple."
"Zoe!" Despina exclaimed as Zoe chuckled and left the kitchen with the tray.
Zoe was still chuckling when she approached the steps. Two soldiers were standing at the bottom of the stairs; both were smoking and were standing around casually. She passed them without a word and was a little curious as to why they were not at the top of the steps as they had been the previous day.
Zoe cast a backward glance at the soldiers, who were oblivious to her curiosity. Hm, that is odd, but maybe it’s not normal they were up there yesterday. Wonder if they thought I would kill the cripple. She adjusted her hold on the tray. Taking a sniff of the flower in the mini vase, she approached Eva’s room, which was the furthest away from the stairs. What an odd place to put a cripple. The door to Eva’s room was slightly ajar.
Zoe was about to tap and enter when she stopped cold. She could hear the bed creaking but there was something else --a low moan, almost the sound of a wounded animal, but she wasn’t sure. It sounded like someone was in pain. She glanced behind her wondering if she should call the guards from downstairs. She put the tray on a nearby chair and was about to enter when she stopped just as her hand touched the door. She heard a man’s low and deep voice speaking in German. She frowned and leaned towards the door, placing both hands very lightly against it. The creaking, the low moans and a man’s voice made Zoe’s eyes widen. The noises inside became a little louder and she finally understood what was going on.
Zoe let go of the wooden door and took a step back as if the wood had exploded into flames. She glanced around her to see why the guards were not coming up, since they obviously knew what was going on. She took another step back and the floorboard creaked, making her shut her eyes tightly and grimace. Fortunately for her, the sound was not going to be heard by the two people inside the room. She took the tray from the chair and hurried down the corridor and down the steps to get as far away from the room as possible.
The two guards heard her coming down the stairs and looked up with matching smirks. As Zoe passed them, she could hear one of the soldiers laugh and make grunting noises. She looked back and stuck out her tongue at them, which only made them laugh harder.
Zoe entered the kitchen and put the tray on the table with a loud bang, causing the vase with the flower to come crashing to the stone floor.
"Argh! I’m going to go deaf or blind or something!" Zoe yelled and shook herself all over. She put her hand over her eyes. "This is going to be the death of me!"
"Zoe! My dear, what is going on in here?" Despina asked as she hurriedly entered the kitchen.
Zoe had now found where Despina kept the vinegar and brought up the bottle to her lips and took a large swallow. The liquid burned her mouth and she grimaced.
Despina looked at the tray minus the vase and then back at Zoe, who was shaking her head. "What are you doing?"
"I’m trying to get the mental image of the cripple and her fiancé out of my head, that’s what."
"How are you going to do that? By drinking my vinegar?"
"Yes, but it’s not working. Argh." Zoe sat down heavily in the chair and put her head down on the table. "Yuck."
Despina sat down next to Zoe and put her hand on her shoulder. "What did you see? Did you walk in on them while they were kissing? I have interrupted them a few times like that."
Zoe lifted her head and gazed at Despina. "Don’t they believe in locking the door?"
"That door doesn’t lock."
"I don’t know, but it doesn’t lock. That’s why there are two security guards at the top of the stairs. They are there to protect Eva."
"Well, those two idiots were at the bottom of the stairs today."
"So, did you find them kissing?"
"No." Zoe shook her head. "I thought she was in pain and I was about to enter to find out and then I stopped. They were having sex."
"Oh," Despina replied, a tiny trace of a smile was trying not to develop into a full blown laugh at Zoe’s expense.
Zoe looked up with a scowl. "Don’t laugh at me. Just because I’m a virgin doesn’t mean I don’t know what sex is."
"I’m not saying you don’t know but it’s not something that is wrong. They are engaged and I don’t know how Germans go about their business but it may be customary for them to engage in sexual intercourse before they get married."
Zoe shuddered and put her head back down on the table, letting her forehead touch the wooden surface. "If sex sounds like that, I don’t want anything to do with it."
Despina burst out laughing and put her arm around Zoe’s shoulders. "Oh, my dear girl, you make me laugh!"
"It’s true, Aunty. She sounded like she was in pain. Never mind him --I think he was having a great time."
"Most men have a great time."
Zoe clapped her hands over her ears and shook her head to rid herself of the mental image. "That’s just going to make me sick."
"When two people love each other, they make love after they are married, but we are in a war, so you never know."
"She didn’t sound like she was enjoying it."
Despina smiled. "What did she sound like?"
"She sounded like she was in pain; that doesn’t sound good to me. She sounded like my dog Athena just before I put her down. Do you remember my dog Athena? She was in constant pain."
"I don’t think it’s the same sound." Despina cupped Zoe’s cheek and smiled. "You will understand once you find the right boy."
"I have far more important things to worry about than falling in love in the middle of a war."
"Yes, you do, and you can’t kill her."
"I don’t know what you mean," Zoe replied keeping her head down and worrying a sliver of wood from the table with her fingernail.
"Everyone has heard about your hatred for this woman. Even Grandma Alamnos knows and she’s been deaf for years."
"I don’t think I’ve made that a secret, Aunty."
"No, you haven’t. I’m quite sure several villages further south know of your hatred for her as well. You are mistaken to think that Eva laughed when your mama was dying."
"I know what I heard."
"You think you do but when we are grieving, we tend to hear a lot of things. I remember when my Pericles died --I thought I heard angels calling his name."
"They were calling his name; he was a great man," Zoe said and took Despina’s hand. "He and my papa were the finest men God ever created."
Despina nodded and crossed herself. "Thank you, sweetheart. I still miss my darling Pericles. Zoe, you can’t continue to hate. Yes, we must cleanse our soil of these Germans but the hatred will eat you up."
"It won’t eat me up," Zoe replied quietly. "I am on a mission of vengeance and that is what keeps me going. I wake up in the morning and all I think about is killing her. It’s better than waking up and wanting to be dead."
"You can’t kill Father Haralambos’ daughter."
Zoe lifted her head and gazed at Despina. "You know about that?"
Despina smiled affectionately at Zoe. "Sweetheart, the gray-haired ones in the village remember Eva’s mother, Daphne. Eva is the spitting image of her mother."
"Oh, yes. Daphne was a very beautiful girl and all the boys wanted to marry her. Daphne was a really gentle girl with a good heart. My oldest daughter, Kaliope, and Daphne, along with Alexandra, were best friends."
"So the cri—" Zoe stopped when she saw the disapproving look she was getting from Despina. "So Eva is Greek?"
"No. Not fully. Daphne’s mother was German, and her father was Greek. You have heard of Petros Mitsos?"
"Of course, who hasn’t? He fought during the Liberation and was a hero."
"Petros Mitsos is Eva’s grandfather. Unfortunately for Daphne she fell in love with Father Haralambos, before he was a priest, and they committed fornication. Daphne’s mother Eva Theresa was distraught, as was her father. It brought great shame to the family."
"Poor Father Haralambos."
"Yes. He asked for Daphne’s hand in marriage but Petros was adamant that he would never marry his daughter."
"So she married the German instead? That’s a great choice."
"Well, a father never knows what will happen to his daughter once he gives her away. The poor family is cursed."
Zoe’s scowled at Despina’s words. "Cursed? What do you mean? Are they all crippled?"
"No, they are fine. Eva is not a cripple. She had an accident and her back has been severely damaged."
"If that’s the case, why does her father have her upstairs! I get tired walking up those steps so I don’t think she’s going to find them easy to navigate."
"I don’t know, I didn’t ask him. When you help her bathe you are not to say anything about her scars. She feels very self-conscious about them. You would feel the same way if they were your scars."
"Alright, I won’t mention them." Zoe nodded. "Why do I have to help her bathe? I don’t feel like seeing her naked."
"That’s your job. You are her maid."
"Oh." Zoe sighed. "Why is the family cursed?"
"Oh, that." Despina crossed herself and kissed the crucifix that hung around her neck. "It’s a very long story but Eva Theresa’s aunty Erika was in an asylum; she was totally mad. She could speak to the dead and see the future."
"Isn’t that what Kiria Danallis does?"
Despina smiled. "Kiria Danallis makes all that up --she’s just a gypsy with nothing better to do. No one can foresee the future. Father Haralambos says that God doesn’t give this gift of prophecy anymore to His chosen. That ability now comes to humans via Satan and the demons. These people are possessed."
"So did this Aunt Erika really speak to the dead?"
"I don’t know, but she was locked up for a long time. Daphne had a younger sister called Theresa. She was a quiet and kind young girl but she was demon possessed, the poor child."
"Eva Theresa didn’t know what to do and in the end they had to send her to Athens because the priests couldn’t cure her. It was the turn of the doctors and they tried everything."
"Did they make her better?"
"Unfortunately young Theresa died in a tragic fire at the asylum so we will never know. Then Daphne fell pregnant and well, their troubles continued."
"That is a very cursed family."
"They are. Now we have young Eva. Her mother was murdered, and then Eva suffered a very bad accident. She was married to a young doctor for two years and he died when he was sent to war. Now she has found happiness with Captain Reinhardt. She deserves some happiness."
"So is that why I shouldn’t kill her, because she found happiness with a German?" Zoe asked incredulously.
"No, you shouldn’t kill her because she hasn’t done anything to deserve your wrath."
"She laughed when my mama was dying."
"Sweetheart, you can’t kill Eva. If you do, all the work she is doing with Father Haralambos will be in vain."
Zoe stared at Despina for a long moment. "How do you know about that?"
"Father Haralambos told me. He needed someone to look out for Eva but I couldn’t do it on my own. I need your help. We all need your help."
"I’m thwarted at every turn," Zoe muttered. "I’m not going to like her. Just because I’m helping her doesn’t mean I’m going to stop hating her."
"No one is asking you to like her. You just have to help her and the rest of us to help those poor people escape."
"Good. Why don’t I make you something to eat and also get Eva something else since those eggs are cold by now?"
"She’s going to need her strength," Zoe muttered under her breath.
Despina chuckled as she got up from the table to make breakfast for Zoe and another for Eva. Zoe watched her and then left the kitchen and shook her head at how she was once again thwarted in her attempts to kill Eva.
Zoe covered the breakfast tray once again with a towel and lifted it off the table. She glanced at Despina, who smiled at her while she was cleaning potatoes in the sink. She left the kitchen and slowly made her way back up the steps. This time the soldiers were standing to attention, one at the foot of the staircase. The guard gave her a cursory glance. Zoe was quite certain he had winked at her but she wasn’t sure as she made sure to keep her eyes forward and not look back.
At the top of the steps Henry, the guard Zoe had nicknamed Goliath, was standing to attention. He had been missing from this morning’s antics but he was back in his usual post. He nodded briefly as Zoe passed him.
Zoe stopped midway down the corridor and leaned to the right. The door was open. Well, they must have finished. She looked back at Henry, who was staring at her. He was smiling, which surprised Zoe. His features changed and he looked so young that she almost forgot he was the enemy.
Zoe turned her attention back to her task at hand. Her job for the morning was bringing breakfast for Eva, cleaning Eva’s room and then helping her bathe. She took a moment to will herself to be civil, although she wasn’t sure how she was going to do that.
"I have--" Zoe entered the room and stopped dead.
Captain Reinhardt was fully dressed in his uniform and the two lovers were kissing, but Eva’s robe was open. Reinhardt had a possessive hold of the back of Eva’s head, his fingers entangled in her black hair. His other hand was obstructed from view by Eva’s robe but there was no denying what he was doing to his fiancée. In the seconds Zoe went from entering the room to shutting her eyes and turning around, she saw Eva’s breasts, bare stomach and one very long leg. Zoe was embarrassed she had caught the two lovers.
The two lovers stopped immediately as soon as they saw Zoe, who had turned her back on them and was staring at the floor and wondering how easy it would be to kill both of them if she had a gun.
"Ah, this is my cue to leave," Reinhardt said with a slight laugh. Zoe heard him kiss his fiancée. To her utter amazement, Reinhardt ruffled her hair in passing her out the door. For a long moment Zoe didn’t move, unsure what to do.
Zoe turned around and scowled. "Ever thought of using a lock on the door?"
"Ever thought of waiting to enter before you enter?" Eva replied and tightened the sash around her robe. "I have my breakfast in the next room, never in my bedroom," she said and walked out, leaving Zoe to stare at her retreating form.
Zoe did a mock Hitler salute at Eva’s retreating back and shook her head. "Stupid bitch," she muttered as she followed her into the drawing room, where she had initially met Eva as her new maid.
The room had more light than the bedroom. Zoe spotted the table nearby and put Eva’s tray on it. Eva paid no attention to her at all. She stood by the window looking out while Zoe arranged the tray. Zoe looked up to see Eva’s reflection in the window pane. The mid-morning sunshine caressed her black hair, which cascaded down her back. Zoe was transfixed by the colors of dark blue and black.
"Do you have to stare at me?" Eva asked, not bothering to turn around.
Zoe was not embarrassed at being caught. She merely shrugged off Eva’s terse question and was about to answer when Nurse Edith walked in. She glanced at Zoe for a moment.
"Do I know you?" Edith asked.
"No," Zoe replied in German.
"This is my new maid. Her name is Zoe Lambros," Eva said as she came away from the window and took a seat on the sofa.
"Ah, yes, Major Muller did mention you. I’m Nurse Ratsger. I am Fraulein Eva’s nurse. Do you understand what I am saying?"
Zoe gazed at Edith’s severe face and then looked at Eva, who had slightly turned away, but Zoe could see her grim look. She turned back to Edith and nodded.
"Good." Edith turned away from Zoe and took Eva’s arm. "I leave for one day and I come back to some happy news!"
Eva nodded and brought up her hand to reveal the ring Reinhardt had given her. "He proposed last night."
"He is a wonderful man," Edith said as she gazed at the ring.
"He is," Eva replied as another nurse entered the room. She was in her early twenties and appeared to be friendly. She was a tall woman with blond hair that was tucked under her nurse’s hat. She stood respectfully next to Edith, who was removing some items from her bag. Eva looked briefly at the nurse without acknowledging her presence.
"Eva, this is Nurse Alana Langstein," Edith said without being asked. She glanced up at Eva, who was staring at Alana. "Nurse Langstein, excuse Fraulein Muller’s rudeness. She dislikes all nurses."
Alana’s dark blue eyes crinkled and she smiled at Eva. "Well, I hope we can change that." Zoe watched the interaction completely fascinated by Edith’s behavior and her lack of respect for her employer.
"I have seen you around," Eva said as she looked up at Alana.
Who is she? I’ve never seen you around. Zoe was eager to find out. She had sat down at a nearby chair and watched. She was mesmerized by the tone in Eva’s voice and her eyes. Her mama used to say that an artist can see into a person’s soul by looking into their eyes. Eva’s eyes betrayed her true feelings, and Zoe wasn’t sure why Edith couldn’t see Eva’s contempt for her. Zoe could clearly see it. You are in a lot of pain and you definitely don’t like this new nurse. She was intrigued by the way Eva was standing. It was obvious to her untrained eye that Eva’s back was giving her a great deal of problems.
"Did you forget to take your pain medication?"
Eva sighed and shook her head. "No, I didn’t forget."
Edith turned to Alana. "Eva is not an easy patient to treat. She will, at times, not take her medication."
The two nurses exchanged glances, which made Zoe lean forward in her chair, eager to decipher the latest mystery.
"Did you run out of your medication?" Alana asked Eva as if she was talking to a child.
"You just didn’t want to take it?" Alana took Eva’s hand and held it.
Zoe’s eyebrows lifted at Alana’s actions. Edith was either oblivious to Alana’s behavior or it was premeditated. There was something very wrong in the whole interaction but Zoe wasn’t sure what it was.
"I don’t like how they make me feel."
"We’ve had this conversation before. Her injuries won’t get better if she doesn’t follow medical advice. She’s been a rather stubborn patient even in Aiden, although now that I think about it." Edith stopped for a moment before she turned to Eva and smiled. "You were never a good patient --you couldn’t stand to stay in bed."
Alana made a clucking noise and Zoe immediately hated the way it sounded. "Medications always made me feel ill as well, but I think we can fix that little problem."
What happened in Aiden? Where is Aiden? Zoe kept a running commentary on the conversation going on around her. She wasn’t even sure why she was in the room. Curiosity won over the need to stay silent.
"What happened to you?" Zoe asked, which got all three women to turn to her.
"Eva suffered a severe injury to her back several years ago in Berlin which took her a great deal of time to recover from. She was treated by her uncle, Dr. Muller. Whilst we were in France with her father, the house they were living in was bombed by the French Resistance. Major Muller suffered some minor bruises but Fraulein Muller’s room was destroyed and she was caught up in the blast."
Wow. You really are cursed. Zoe momentarily felt sorry for Eva.
"It was a blessing that Dr. Muller was in France at the time. I heard from Dr. Baer that he is a true healer," Alana exclaimed and took Eva’s hand. "Nurse Edith will update me on everything I need to do to make you feel better. It’s remarkable how far you have come, especially after the bombing. Dr. Muller is so proud of you."
Why are you going to be kept updated about her, Nurse Blondie? You are just strange. All you Nazis are just strange. Zoe mentally sighed.
"Yes, it’s been a difficult recovery," Eva replied tersely.
"She also happens to be the most stubborn patient I’ve ever had to treat, but I do remember Dr. Muller telling me about a nurse that seemed to get Eva to listen, which was quite a feat."
Eva turned her gaze at Edith and stared at her for the longest time. "His name was Karl."
"Yes, that’s his name. Karl. Good looking young man, wasn’t he, Eva?"
Eva turned away and nodded. "Yes."
"He was rather sweet, if I remember correctly, but Erik won your hand, right from under the young man’s nose, no less!" Edith continued her story to Alana, oblivious to Eva’s very obvious discomfort in talking about Aiden.
"I was wondering what had happened to you." Zoe couldn’t help herself and spoke to Eva in Greek.
"I wasn’t born a cripple," Eva replied, causing Zoe to merely gaze at her.
Edith watched Eva and Zoe for a moment before she focused her attention on Eva. "Are we going to have another round of this?" She asked and glanced at Alana. "I can hide it from your father for a short time but he is not going to be happy."
Eva let her head drop and slowly shook her head. "What does it matter to my father if I don’t take my medication?"
"He loves you. You know that and it hurts him if you don’t look after yourself."
"Well, we can’t have him feeling hurt," Eva replied sarcastically. The comment earned her a raised eyebrow.
It’s a brief act of defiance. You are staging your own mini resistance war. Zoe watched Alana get handed the syringe. That didn’t last very long but it was worth a try. Her thoughts were interrupted when Eva looked up as if she had sensed Zoe’s thoughts. She gazed into Eva’s eyes for a long moment, and for a brief second she saw a flash of anger and then it was gone.
"An old friend of yours will be dropping in this week," Edith said as she set out a syringe on a towel on the sofa. She looked up to find Eva staring at her. "Dr. Uta Baer will be stopping in on her way to France."
Eva blinked rapidly and her eyes completely betrayed her rising panic. Zoe noticed her shoulders slump and that all too brief defiant act was gone. This Dr. Baer terrifies her.
Eva took several gulps of air, her distress clearly evident to everyone in the room, although the two nurses were not reacting to it.
"Eva, darling, she is just coming to see how you are. That’s all. It won’t involve any treatments. I promise you that. Dr. Muller can’t make it, which is most unfortunate as he would love to see you," Edith said as she let go of the syringe and reached out for Eva’s hand.
Zoe’s gaze never left Eva’s face, which was quite ashen. Who are Dr. Muller and Dr. Baer? They are not people she wants to see, but the nurses are not noticing this?
"I have been sending him such glowing reports about your health that he wanted to come and see for himself but he’s been unable to get away. Dr. Baer was in Thessaloniki and then she’s going to Athens, so this would be a perfect time to come visit us."
"Who are Dr. Muller and Dr. Baer?" Zoe decided to ask. Her curiosity had won out and she wanted to know who these people were more than she wanted to observe.
"Dr. Dieter Muller. He is Major Muller’s brother and a world renowned physician. He treated Eva in 1938. Dr. Baer treated Eva in France after the bombing."
"Who?" Zoe asked, not understanding the more difficult German words.
"Satan and his little helper," Eva muttered in Greek. Zoe’s eyebrows rose at Eva’s words and she glanced at the nurses, who were oblivious to the statement.
"Where is Dr. Muller?" Zoe said in German. She didn’t want to give away Eva’s honest answer. One look at Eva’s anxious demeanor was enough to tell her Satan and his little helper terrified her.
"He’s stationed in France," Eva replied and looked down at her hands. She twisted the ring on her finger, completely lost in thought.
"Dr. Baer is looking forward to seeing you," Edith said before she took hold of the syringe and gave it to Alana. The needle caused Zoe’s eyes to widen.
Without a word, Alana pushed up Eva’s sleeve from her robe and gently wiped a patch on her upper arm with white gauze. Eva pulled her arm away from Alana’s grasp momentarily. Alana’s response was to take Eva’s arm without a word.
Ah, Blondie, you’re not so nice, are you? Zoe watched the interaction.
"I know you hate injections and would do anything to get out of them. I could get your father to give them to you if you want. Is that what you want?"
Eva shook her head at Edith’s very real threat. "No."
"No, I didn’t think you would." Edith watched Alana bring the injection to Eva’s arm and slowly push it in, causing Eva and Zoe to wince in unison.
While Alana tidied up after herself, Zoe’s gaze remained with Eva, who had closed her eyes. Zoe noticed the Eva’s hands shake, as whatever she had been given was causing her distress. Zoe was about to say something when Eva’s hands clenched. Edith looked down and didn’t say a word. She merely prepared some pills from her bag. She stood up and walked to where the breakfast tray lay and poured Eva a glass of water. She came back and helped Eva sit up to take the pills.
There was no defiance, no act of resistance. Whatever resistance Zoe had seen, it had disappeared.
For a brief moment their eyes met and all Zoe could see was surrender in Eva’s eyes.
What really happened to you? Eva closed her eyes; her hands were clenched.
"What did you give her?’
Edith gazed down at her charge and brushed Eva’s dark hair from her eyes. "Nothing you should concern yourself with."
Zoe wasn’t sure if Edith cared for her patient or not, but whatever was going on, it wasn’t what she was expecting.
Just what I need; more complications. Zoe watched Edith get up from the bed and repack her bag.
"Wasn’t there anywhere smaller they can put me?" Zoe asked as she stood in the doorway of the room that was assigned to her. The room was located next to Eva’s bedroom, which didn’t please Zoe, or Eva for that matter, but that’s where Major Muller wanted her. It wasn’t exactly a room. It was the tiniest room she had ever seen.
"Zoe--" Despina put her arm around Zoe’s shoulders.
"My chicken coup at the farm is bigger than this," Zoe muttered as she stepped into the room. A bed and a single wooden chair, acting as a bedside table, took up half the space of the room. "Why can’t I live across the street?"
"Major Muller wants his daughter’s maid to be close by."
"I live across the street. That’s close." Zoe was undeterred by Despina’s reasoning. She went to bounce on the bed and was surprised to find that it was rock hard. "Ouch, my butt did not like that."
Despina leaned against the doorjamb and shook her head. "This is not a holiday at the seaside."
"They could at least give me a soft bed," Zoe muttered. She noticed her legs dangling off the side of the tall bed. "These people are giants. Look at the height of this bed!"
"I don’t think the Germans brought their beds halfway across Europe," Despina entered the room and hurried Zoe off the bare mattress.
Zoe made a face as she got off the bed and watched as Despina put a clean white sheet, a pillow and a blanket. "I don’t like this place; it’s very cold."
"It gets that way in the evening."
"No, I don’t mean the house is cold, but there isn’t any warmth to the people. I know the Nazis are cold but this is like the Pinios in winter. Almost frozen." Zoe sat back down on the bed, mindful this time of the hardboard beneath the mattress.
Despina gazed at Zoe for a moment. "Your job is not to try and understand these Germans. Just get some rest tonight."
"Doesn’t her majesty need anything tonight?"
"Zoe! You need to show some respect."
"Respect is earned, Aunty. I’m not going to respect that Nazi bitch or anyone else in this house."
"I live here too." Despina raised an eyebrow at Zoe’s comment.
"Except for you."
Despina sighed and crossed herself. "Goodness, child, you are going to get yourself killed talking like that."
"Nah." Zoe waved away the suggestion. "They need a maid and no one else is stupid enough to do the job."
Despina smiled, stepped forward and kissed Zoe on the top of her head. "You are a brave young lady, little one. I know what it means for you to be in the same house as that evil creature. You are doing God’s work."
Zoe raised her eyes and met Despina’s gaze. "I’m not doing God’s work --I’m doing the work of the Resistance. God has nothing to do with it."
Despina put her arms around Zoe and hugged her. "I remember when you were born. Your mama held you in her arms and you were screeching so loudly, I think the next village could hear you. She named you Zoe because that’s what you were --a new life. You were so full of life. For me and the rest of the Resistance, you are doing the work of God."
Zoe didn’t say a word; she couldn’t. The mere mention of her mother and the reality that she would never again see her again made her physically ill. She tried to swallow the lump in her throat and sighed deeply as she lifted her gaze towards the ceiling.
Despina tenderly kissed Zoe’s cheek. "My darling Zoe, your mama would be so proud of you. Now get some rest. It’s going to be a busy day tomorrow."
"Why?" Zoe asked hoarsely.
"We have visitors staying with us. Now get some rest," Despina urged Zoe and gave her a parting kiss on the head and walked out of the room.
Zoe watched Despina leave and the door close. Her meager possessions were lying at the foot of the bed. There was no wardrobe to hang her clothes but a clothes line attached to two hooks on other side of the room. With a shake of her head she began to unpack the small suitcase she had packed after going back to the house across the street.
Zoe worked purposely to hang up the clothes and arrange her two pairs of shoes neatly in the corner. It didn’t take her long to arrange things the way she wanted them. Her sketchbook and pencils were neatly laid out on the chair. She sat down on the bed and watched the afternoon shadows creep along the floorboards. She brought the chair towards her and flipped over the book to the nearest blank page.
Zoe smiled as she picked up her pencil. The Resistance had another tool at their disposal that most of the Germans were unaware of --Zoe’s photographic memory. Relying on that gift and her ability to draw, she started to draw the house plans that she would complete as she was taken to various areas that she would be going. The Resistance could use those plans for a later bombing the same way they had used her skills with the first German commander. She stopped drawing when the sound of a soldier’s voice reached her from outside. The evening curfew had begun. Several minutes later gunshots were heard in the still night air, making her shake her head at the apparent loss of yet another life.
Zoe put down her pencil and went to the window. She pulled back the curtain and looked outside. She didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. She could see the guards stationed at the gate and beyond that her own house. She smiled on seeing young Dimitri standing at the window.
Marika and her son Dimitri were homeless. The Germans had taken over their modest home for their use, not caring what happened to the widow and her son. They were looked after by the Church but that was not a home. Zoe quickly thought of them and the now vacant house. She had spoken to Father Haralambos and arranged for them to move in.
Marika was Zoe’s link to the Resistance and could send for her, if needed, to get the message out. Zoe’s movements were going to be watched even more carefully now that she was working at the house.
Zoe’s attention was drawn to the line of cars that had stopped in the courtyard. "I bet that’s not King George who is visiting," Zoe said aloud as she watched a soldier rush to the passenger side and open the door. A tall woman exited the car and was greeted by Major Muller with a kiss on the cheek.
Zoe let go of the curtain and hurriedly ripped the page from the sketchbook. She folded the page and stuck it under her thin mattress for another time. She crossed the short distance to the door, opened it and stuck her head out. Henry talked quietly with another soldier for a moment before the soldier went back down the steps. Henry turned and caught Zoe’s attention.
"Do we have royalty visiting?" Zoe asked as she opened the door fully and stepped out.
"Long line of cars outside."
"Oh, that. No, not royalty."
Henry stared at Zoe for a long moment. "Why do you need to know?"
"Why are you going to keep asking me why I’m asking?"
"Because I need to know."
Zoe smiled knowingly. "That’s my answer."
"I should have shot you," Henry replied as he ran his hand over his bald head in frustration.
"Who is here?"
"Go back inside and mind your own business." Henry put his hands on Zoe’s shoulders and gently pushed her back inside the room. "You ask too many questions."
"Because I need to know," Zoe quipped giving him a sly smile.
"You’re going to get yourself shot."
"Would you miss me?"
"I would miss my bed bugs more," Henry muttered and closed the door, leaving a grinning Zoe in his wake. Moments later Zoe crouched against the door and put her ear against the wood.
The sound of footsteps and muffled chatter filled the corridor. Zoe cracked open the door and found herself staring at the back of Henry’s leg. He had positioned himself outside her door and she was unable to discern who was on the landing.
Zoe backed away from the door with a puzzled expression on her face. Whoever it was, they were important enough for Major Muller to greet them. She went back to the drawings she had hidden under the mattress and on the opposite side of the house layout, she started to write what she had just seen.
Zoe strode towards the cemetery with her head down as the wind whipped around her red hair. Zoe pulled the warm coat tighter as slowed her pace when she saw an old woman cleaning weeds from her mother’s grave. She watched the woman, her face obscured by a black headscarf --a common sight among the old women out of respect for their dead loved ones. Zoe hated the color. She preferred bright colors like yellow, light blue or orange, but her favorite was fire engine red. At her mother’s funeral Zoe refused to wear black. She wore a bright orange skirt and a dark blue shirt. Naturally the old women of the town were scandalized but many thought the child had lost her mind and made allowances.
On getting closer to her parent’s grave Zoe noticed the old woman’s white hair peeking out from the scarf.
"Oh, good morning, my little Zoe!" The old woman turned. Her smile creased an already lined face and her big brown eyes crinkled. She was short and rail thin. Zoe never forgot a face but she was having a problem in remembering who the woman was and where she lived.
"Do I know you?"
"My name is Aretha Palakalios," the old woman introduced herself and chuckled at the confused look on Zoe’s face. "Your aunty Stella sent me."
"Oh!" Zoe’s scowl turned to a happy smile when she heard her aunt’s name. "You’re from Thessaloniki?"
"I am, I am. Come, let’s sit down." Aretha looked around and spotted a crate near a tree. "Ah, a crate, how convenient."
"I use it to sit and talk to my parents," Zoe responded as she took off her coat and placed it on the damp grass before she sat cross-legged on the ground. Aretha sat down on the crate. "So, my aunt Stella sent you, yiayia?"
Aretha smiled. "She did."
"Why couldn’t she come herself?"
Aretha crossed herself and kissed the silver cross that hung around her neck. "Ah, my dear child, Stella has been caught up in some troubles of her own."
"Oh? Does she know about Mama?"
"No, we didn’t get the news in Thessaloniki, I’m sorry to say."
"So Aunty Stella doesn’t know about me being alone?"
"No, my darling, she doesn’t. Stella is up to her neck in trouble with the Germans. She’s the personal physician to the commander in Thessaloniki."
"Well." Zoe shook her head, a slight smile appearing on her lips. "I think this is the first time I feel sorry for a German since this war started."
Aretha chuckled in response to Zoe’s comment. "She is a little on the exuberant side."
"So does that mean she won’t be coming down here?"
"No, my darling Zoe, she can’t."
"So, I’m on my own," Zoe muttered as she picked up the blades of grass that peaked out from the edges of her coat. "I was wondering what had happened to her."
"You’re not alone. You have Father Haralambos looking after you--"
Zoe continued to stare at the grass she had clipped and played with it in her hand. "How do you know about Father Haralambos?" She tilted her head a little and regarded Aretha. "Did you come into town very early? Father H is in church every morning at five."
"No, it was very late. Two boys from the Resistance brought me into town because it was after curfew and they found me on the road. They told me about you."
"You walked from Thessaloniki?"
"I tried to run but I ran out of puff." Aretha grinned at Zoe’s exaggerated eye roll.
"You’ve been spending far too much time with my aunty Stella."
"She’s a good girl and hopefully, if she doesn’t kill the commander out of sheer lunacy, she may live to the end of the war."
"So, how is she? The last time I saw her she was so unhappy after Uncle Timothy got killed."
Aretha nodded slowly. "She was bereft after Timmy died."
"Did you know my uncle?"
"No, but Stella told me so much about him. She still mourns for him. The two boys wanted to know why I was walking into town and I told them I was looking for the Lambros farm."
"You were walking in the wrong direction."
"Apostolos, handsome young man, told me, but he said it was alright, since you were not there."
"Did Apostolos tell you about Mama?" Zoe asked as her gaze turned to the makeshift headstone bearing her mother’s name.
"He did. These Germans are savages. He also told me what a brave young woman you are. I think he’s very fond of you." Aretha patted Zoe’s cheek. "He seems like a sweet boy."
Zoe shook her head and sighed. "Oh please, don’t start. He is far too old, he’s too tall and those light blue eyes of his just look unnatural."
"The boy has blue eyes. Is that terrible? How old is he? He can’t be more than five years older than you."
"He’s eight years older. That’s old."
"Ah well, yes, that’s old," Aretha said with a slight smile. "Now let’s forget about Apostolos, since you think he is too old, too tall and his eyes are too blue. Tell me how you are faring so I can tell your aunty Stella."
"Are you going back?"
"I am. I came to see how you and your mother were faring. The news I take home with me is not good but Stella will want to know how you are."
Zoe sighed and looked around the cemetery as the early morning sun started its climb casting the cemetery is a golden hue. Her attention was on the distant figure of the undertaker going about his early morning chores. After a long moment she turned to Aretha. "I am alive."
"Apostolos tells me you are working for the Germans."
"Apostolos also has a big mouth. For a Resistance leader, he needs to learn to shut up," Zoe muttered as she picked up a twig and rolled it between her fingers.
"So it’s true?"
"Yes. Our local priest--"
"I think if the Germans ever capture Apostolos, he is going to start telling them everything they want to know before they even ask," Zoe said with a shake of her head.
"Now, now, Zoe, he was just trying to be helpful."
"Father Haralambos talked me into working for the Major’s daughter. I suppose you know about Major Muller?" Aretha nodded and Zoe continued. "Well, I’m working for his daughter, the lunatic Eva Muller."
"Oh dear, the poor woman."
"She’s not really a lunatic, although judging from what Kiria Despina told me about her family--"
"No, seems her mother was from Larissa. Lunacy runs in the family."
"Oh, that’s terrible."
"I’m surprised Apostolos didn’t tell you that," Zoe said, giving Aretha a cheeky grin. "I’m working for the lunatic. That’s alright, the whole place is like one huge lunatic asylum."
"No, darling, a lunatic asylum is not like Larissa. I’ve seen lunatic asylums and they are not the same."
"I have visited many a poor soul in those horrible places. Trust me, little one, you don’t want to see the inside of one."
"Well, yiayia, this place is lunacy. The Major’s daughter is crazy. One minute she talks to me calmly and the next she gets angry for no apparent reason."
"It’s a little strange to be in a war zone."
"As I said, the family is crazy."
"Why are you working for them?"
Zoe looked at Aretha with a slight smile. "So Apostolos left something else out?"
"It was late at night and the poor boy can’t remember everything." Aretha chuckled.
"It has something to do with the Resistance."
"Ah, say no more. The less said, the better. You never know who might be listening."
"Well," Zoe looked around at the quiet cemetery, "my job is to be Fraulein Muller’s maid. I haven’t been her maid yet and it’s been four days since I started. I’ve been helping Despina and not being a maid."
"Why is that?"
"Seems a friend of the family came to visit and this woman has been helping the cripple--"
"What? She is a cripple. The doctor friend is helping her, although it hasn’t helped her disposition. Eva Muller is a rather disagreeable woman."
"Hm, I don’t care, really. This doctor has been really nice to me and gave me some sweets yesterday. I was in the kitchen cleaning potatoes for Kiria Despina and she comes in, sees I’m alone and then leaves. She comes back in with a small package in her hand."
"Just like that?"
"Yeah, just like that. She sat down and started to talk to me. I almost forgot she was German; she was very funny. She then gave me the sweets."
"One of the very few Germans I like."
"Why was she nice to you?"
"I don’t know. Maybe she was bored or she got tired of Eva’s temperamental ways."
"Are there other Germans you like?"
"Goliath," Zoe replied and laughed at the confused look on Aretha’s face. "His name isn’t Goliath, but that’s what I call him. He’s very tall--"
"We know you don’t like tall men," Aretha quipped making Zoe laugh. "You have a very beautiful laugh."
"Thank you. You make me laugh."
"We need that occasionally or else life becomes too dark. Tell me about Goliath?"
"He is the crazy one’s bodyguard. He is really a nice boy although he keeps threatening to shoot me."
"That doesn’t seem nice."
"I think it’s become a joke between us. I don’t know why it became that way but every time I annoy him, and I annoy him a lot, he threatens to shoot me. I think he’s smitten with Eva."
"Hm. Every time she’s near him, he gets this funny look on his face. I want to slap him but he’s too tall so I can’t." Zoe shook her head slowly. "My brother Michael used to say that there were three stages of love."
"That’s what he used to say. He said the three stages are," Zoe held up three fingers, "Like, Heavy Like and Deep Love. Michaels said when you get to stage three, everything is lost and they could shoot him, because he would be useless. I think Goliath is at number three."
Aretha smiled as she reached out and held Zoe’s hand. "My darling, that boy is probably at stage one. Deep Love is never that quick and it takes a lifetime to get there."
"I don’t know anything about that since I’ve never been in Like, Heavy Like or Love. I don’t know how that feels like and right now I don’t want to know."
"You will, one day. When that lucky boy comes along, you will know it. It will come into your life like a train and run you over when you least expect it."
"Great, I’ll get run over by a train. Something to look forward to. Is that what happened to you?" Zoe asked and indicated the dark clothes Aretha was wearing.
"It is and it was extraordinary. Your day will come."
"Pah." Zoe dismissed that notion. "I have to get back to the house to help Despina, can you come back with me--"
"No, my darling, I have a long journey ahead of me. The blue eyed boy you don’t like is going to take me home," Aretha replied as she got up from the crate. "I have quite a few stories to tell Stella when I get back."
"Safe journey, yiayia, and tell Aunty Stella I love her."
"I will, my darling, I will. Be safe." Aretha tenderly cupped Zoe’s cheek. "Keep your eyes on the road ahead and never waiver. You will find happiness one day where you least expect it."
"Hm, please don’t tell me it’s with a blue eyed boy."
"No, I won’t tell you it will be with that blue eyed boy but you will find that special someone," Aretha said with a knowing smile. "Be well, be safe and laugh when you can," she added before she took hold of Zoe’s shirt and tugged for the youngster to bend for a kiss on the cheek.
Without another word, Aretha took her cane, which had been leaning against the tree, and slowly made her way out of the cemetery. Zoe stood at the graveside, smiling as she watched her leave.
Back to the Academy