"Of course this has to be on the top shelf," Zoe muttered as she stood in the walk-in pantry and looked up at the high shelf. In her hands she held the flour that Despina had given her to go and store.
Zoe put the flour on the nearest shelf she could reach and stuck her head out the pantry. Henry was about to walk past when she pulled his jacket.
"Stop doing that!"
"How else am I going to get your attention?"
Henry glared at Zoe. "How about using my name?"
"My real name. My name is not Goliath."
"It should be," Zoe replied and looked up at the scowling soldier. "Oh, come on, you like it."
"I do not," Henry responded and followed Zoe into the pantry. "This was not built for midgets," he said as he gazed up at the high shelving. Zoe gave him the flour, which he effortlessly placed on the top shelf. "My name is Henry."
"No, it’s not."
"I know what my name is."
"It is not."
"What kind of name is Henry? That doesn’t even sound German."
"Why do you always have to be so disagreeable?"
Zoe grinned. "It’s fun and I like you."
Henry looked down at Zoe and smiled. Just as he was about to respond, they heard Nurse Edith’s voice. Henry sighed heavily and put his finger to his lips to indicate to Zoe not to speak. Ever so quietly as to not betray their location, Henry turned off the light. The door was slightly ajar and he didn’t attempt to close it.
"Wh--" Zoe’s question was cut short by Henry’s large hand, which he placed gently over her mouth.
"Don’t talk," Henry mouthed as Edith and someone else stopped just barely feet away from the pantry.
"Do you have to leave, Uta?"
"I must, unfortunately. Dieter wants me to come back and I can assuage his concerns about Eva."
"I didn’t have any doubts."
"You are such a gentle soul, Edith. Sometimes those treatments don’t always work and further work needs to be done, but you are a soft heart."
Edith laughed, and Uta joined her. Inside the pantry, Zoe froze. That laugh. The same laugh she had heard the day her mama was killed. The laugh she thought belonged to Eva. Zoe scowled.
"So you have no doubts?"
"Have you told Hans?"
"I did. I’m satisfied she is cured."
"Are you worried about that maid?"
Zoe’s eyebrows rose and quickly glanced at Henry, who was bopping his head up and down.
"No. She’s young and they hate each other."
Edith laughed again, causing Zoe to cringe.
"They don’t hate each other. They detest each other and that’s why Hans thought she was perfect for the job."
"Because she hated her?"
"Yes. It’s common knowledge in the village. Hans thought Eva wouldn’t be tempted."
"Eva is not going to be tempted; she’s cured."
"Tempted to do what?" Zoe mouthed silently to Henry, who brought his finger up to his lips for her not to speak out loud.
"I know that but Hans doubted it. Did you try and get her interested?"
"I did. I got slapped."
Uta’s laugh filtered through into the pantry. Zoe’s eyebrows rose in an unasked question.
"Did she really?"
"Oh, yes, and it was pretty hard. I expected nothing less. I think it’s genuine."
"Well, thank God for that. I fear what this would do to Hans if it didn’t work."
"Sometimes it doesn’t work and the only solution is to put them out of their misery."
"Well, I’m glad it did work."
"You have to get her out of the house and walking. She’s refused to leave her room while I’ve been here."
"She walks to the church now but I’ve been encouraging her to go further."
"She has to. I don’t want her going to the church."
Zoe shook her head and smiled. You two are so dumb, she thought.
"What about the maid? We know she’s in the Resistance."
"Everyone is in the Resistance, Edith. I don’t think Eva is involved here. Not like she was in France."
Zoe quickly glanced up at Henry, who was scowling. She noticed the vein in his neck pulsate and wondered if he knew about Eva’s Resistance activities.
"I don’t think you were right about that. Eva was in mourning for Erik, and the last thing she would be doing was to collaborate with the French."
"Hans seemed to think she was, but here it’s different, although he doesn’t want her going to the church."
"The priest is in the Resistance as well?"
"Every Greek is in the Resistance."
"Young Zoe is in the Resistance and she doesn’t make it a secret. The girl is not shy about telling anyone who cares to listen."
"That’s why she’s not a threat."
Henry looked up at the ceiling of the pantry and quietly chuckled for a moment before he glanced down at Zoe, who was wagging her finger at him.
"I hope so. I wish you could stay longer."
"As much as I would love to, I have to get back to my hellhole."
"Before you catch your train, why don’t I show you Athena’s Bluff and then the gorge? It’s very beautiful."
"Hm, that would be nice."
Zoe’s face creased into a smile as Edith and Uta walked away down the corridor. After a long moment, she glanced at Henry.
"What was that?"
"That was two escaped Harpies from hell."
"Colorful," Zoe quipped only to find that Henry’s scowl had intensified. "Henry, was Nurse Edith present when you all decided to kill people?"
"I did not kill anyone."
"Was she there?"
"Yes," Henry replied quietly. "She was standing behind me."
Zoe shook her head slowly. "It was her."
Henry stood quietly and allowed Zoe to process the revelation on her own. After a long moment he put his hand on her shoulder. "It was never Eva."
"You know about that?"
"I have ears."
"You don’t understand Greek."
"Yes, I do," Henry replied in Greek, catching Zoe by surprise. "A little. Eva has been teaching me."
"Just my luck," Zoe good naturedly grumbled as she opened the door and they left the pantry. She watched Henry walk away and heard his chortle.
Zoe stood in the corridor looking down at the wooden floorboards, deep in thought. She did an about face and almost skipped down the corridor to the kitchen.
Chapter Twenty One
Eva slowly made her way down the street, her guards alert as they watched the people who passed them. She was very much aware of the openly hostile looks she was getting. The last thing she wanted was for someone to get shot because of her. Major Muller had ordered her to hold her head high but it was more than a little difficult to do when hate was all that was directed at her. Muller didn’t want his daughter to be intimidated by the villagers; not by them, but it was perfectly acceptable for her to be afraid of him.
"Stay here," Eva instructed Henry, who in turn gave her an outraged look. "Is there a problem? Henry, we’ve had this chat before," she said, and lowered the hood of her cloak.
"I have to be seen to be objecting." Henry leaned forward and whispered in Eva’s ear whilst the other guard, Barkow, was busy watching the village girls. He looked surprised when Eva smiled.
"Follow me inside the house of God and I promise you that you will see the front lines faster than you can blink," Eva told him loud enough for the other guard to notice. "Do you understand me?"
The sergeant looked at Barkow, who chose to stand to attention and stay silent. "Yes, Fraulein, but I will have to report this to Captain Reinhardt."
Eva just smiled and entered the church, leaving the guards outside. She pulled out a scarf and placed it on her head before she passed the altar. She spied Father Haralambos talking to one of the elderly nuns. She patiently stood by until he had finished and then went over to speak to him. There were a few people milling around after the service, giving her the most hostile looks.
"Ah, Fraulein Muller, how nice to see you."
"Father, I hope you are well."
"Very well, my child," Father Haralambos replied with a twinkle in his eye. "How--"
Father Haralambos didn’t have a chance to finish before Eva staggered forward. She was hit across her back by a short, elderly woman with a cane. The cleric grabbed Eva to prevent her fall and steadied her.
"Mrs. Elimbos! Please, we can’t have violence in the house of God!" Father Haralambos said as he helped Eva to a seat nearby. "Are you okay?"
Eva merely nodded. Her back had already been on fire that morning and the blow just added to her misery. The attack brought the guards rushing into the church. They stopped when they caught Eva’s eye. She motioned for them not to come in further and to stay outside. The last thing she needed was for the whole incident to be overblown and lives lost.
"Get this animal out of the house of God first!" Mrs. Elimbos replied and spat in Eva’s face. Eva deliberately did not move, but let the old woman continue her tirade until she had exhausted herself. Finally, Mrs. Elimbos waved her cane at Father Haralambos and walked off quite satisfied with herself.
Father Haralambos hurriedly gave Eva a handkerchief so she could wipe away the spittle. "I’m so sorry, Fraulein."
"It’s alright. I’m getting used to being hit," Eva mumbled as she took the handkerchief and wiped her face.
"Well, I’ll have a word with Mrs. Elimbos next time I see her. Please, come into my office."
They entered the office, Father Haralambos helping remove Eva’s cloak before ushering her into a seat. "I am sorry." He put his arm around Eva to console her. She leaned into his embrace and closed her eyes. How many times had she wished that her father would take her in his arms and hold her, tell her she was loved, and tell her everything was going to be all right? It was divine intervention she had come to Larissa; it had to be.
"You aren’t at fault. Mrs. Elimbos has probably wanted to do that for a long time." Eva sighed wearily.
"I’m going to have a word with her--"
"And tell her what? That I’m your daughter?" Eva smiled. "Or that you love Germans?"
Father Haralambos scratched his beard. "You have a point." He nodded. "I do love one particular German." He smiled. "How is little Zoe doing?"
Eva grimaced. "You were right. She’s very difficult when she wants to be. Henry and Zoe seem to have become friends, if you can believe that."
"Really? Now that is interesting."
"I never thought that would happen. He keeps threatening to shoot her when she annoys him but I know Henry and he does like her. It’s a very strange friendship that seems to be forming."
Father Haralambos chuckled. "Henry seems to be a nice young man. At least he can be the buffer between you and Zoe if it comes to that but I don’t think it will. What else has been going on?"
Eva sighed and looked down at her hands and twisted the gold ring on her finger. "My uncle sent Cerberus to visit me."
"Let’s not talk about her. Henry told me that she was very nice to Zoe so I don’t know what game she is playing."
"How did Zoe respond?"
"Henry said she looked very confused but was nice. That’s a little hard for me to picture."
Father Haralambos chuckled. "If Zoe trusts you, she will defend you even with her life. The problem is you have to earn Zoe’s trust," he said.
"I don’t think Zoe will ever trust me. I don’t think it’s even possible for that woman to trust anyone. She is so full of hate. How do I get her to trust me?"
"Be yourself." Father Haralambos smiled. "Zoe needs a friend. You need a friend and an ally in that lion’s den. Zoe can be that friend, if you let her."
"That’s a little difficult to do, Father, when Zoe sees me as the enemy."
Father Haralambos nodded. "You hide who you really are, and it’s difficult for people to see the real you. If you let Zoe see who you are, you will find a kindred spirit."
Eva thought about Father Haralambos’ words but she doubted the young woman he knew and the young woman who goaded her in her office were one and the same. "She wants to kill me."
"Zoe doesn’t want to kill you. Trust me, if Zoe wanted to kill you, she would have done it."
"You mean like when she went to shoot me in the cellar?"
"Yes, well." Father Haralambos stroked his beard. "There was a reason Zoe was so angry that day."
"Isn’t she like that most days?"
"No. Zoe had a very upsetting day and she was very angry. I had her cleaning the cellar to take her frustrations on the mess that was down there."
"Lucky that gun doesn’t work very well."
"It works," Father Haralambos mumbled. "You have nothing to fear from Zoe. I’ve known Zoe all her life and her soul is good. Can you try for me?"
Eva looked doubtful but nodded. "I will try."
"Thank you," Father Haralambos replied and kissed Eva on the cheek. "Now, why are you here? Not that I don’t want you here, but I thought you were going to send Zoe? You did hire Zoe, didn’t you?"
Eva pulled out the papers she had under her cloak and gave them to Father Haralambos. "Oh, yes, Zoe is perfect for the job, but Captain Reinhardt was nearby and I didn’t want to arouse his suspicions." She pointed to the papers and said, "The Petrolakis family, I’m sure, will be happier."
Father Haralambos adjusted his glasses and looked at the identity papers, smiling proudly. Eva watched him. He had told her that pre-war Larissa had a large Jewish population and some had managed to flee before the Germans invaded, but others had been caught. Their neighbors sheltered the few that hadn’t been captured immediately after the occupation. The penalty for hiding Jews was death and Father Haralambos tried to get them out of the country as soon as he could. Eva had managed to get her father’s signature on new identity papers and the arrangement had been working quite well.
"Do you think your father suspects?"
Eva shrugged. "My stepfather suspects everything and everyone. Jurgen alerts me to my father’s mood."
"He loves you."
"He does." Eva held out her hand and showed Father Haralambos the engagement ring. "He proposed two nights ago."
"I’m happy for you." The priest leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
"My father’s dream come true. Muller wants him to keep an eye on me."
"Ah." Father Haralambos stroked his beard. "You don’t love him?"
Eva glanced at him and shook her head. "I like him."
"Can I ask you a question?"
Eva smiled. "You can ask me anything you want."
"You have the chance to escape and be free of these tyrants..."
Eva sighed and smiled sadly. "I have thought about it, and you don’t know how I wish to be free of him. But who will help you?"
"Are you staying just for me?" Father Haralambos asked incredulously.
"I’m staying because of you, and because it’s the right thing to do," Eva replied. "Didn’t you say that for everything, there is a season?"
Father Haralambos smiled. "Yes, and in our case it’s a time of war."
"Our time of peace will come soon and that’s what I’m holding out for," Eva replied. "I don’t know what the future holds, but for now I’m going to try and help you."
Father Haralambos cupped Eva’s face and kissed her on the forehead. "Your mama would have been so proud of you," he said. "Now, I think you’d better get going before your soldiers come looking for you."
Eva stood and put her cloak back on. She stood there for a moment and kissed Father Haralambos before leaving the office and the church. She mentally groaned when she saw Reinhardt with her guards. She was certain they had witnessed Mrs. Elimbos’ attack on her --it would have been difficult to miss with the doors of the church wide open.
"Ah, Eva, are you all right?" Reinhardt asked as he threaded his arm around hers and led her down the steps.
"I’m fine, Jurgen."
"Why didn’t you let your guards come to your rescue?"
Eva sighed. "There was nothing to rescue me from, sweetheart. An elderly woman just let her feelings be known about me being in the church."
"You were assaulted," Reinhardt persisted. "You know your guards have orders to shoot anyone--"
"I know," Eva replied. "I didn’t think killing an old woman was going to achieve anything."
Reinhardt stopped and brought Eva close to him. "You are going to get killed one day."
Eva looked into his steely blue eyes and merely nodded. If the Greeks didn’t get her, she was certain Muller would eventually find out the truth about her Resistance activities; it was just a matter of time.
They walked arm in arm towards the house with the guards behind them. At the entrance to the house, Reinhardt turned to Eva and kissed her chastely on the lips. "Thank you for the walk, Fraulein," he said and saluted the guards before leaving.
"I wish I could say the same," Eva whispered.
Chapter Twenty Two
Zoe sighed and turned to see the soldiers approaching. She had been stopped twice today already and it was beginning to get on her nerves. She put the sack she was carrying down on the ground and pulled out her identity card. Without waiting for the soldier to ask her, she handed the card over.
"You are a smart one, aren’t you?" The soldier sneered as he read the papers and then glanced back at Zoe.
"No." Zoe attempted to be humble but she didn’t think she could get away with it. She knew for certain she hadn’t been successful when the soldier backhanded her, knocking her to the ground and spattering her clothes with mud.
The other soldiers, along with the one who had struck her, snickered. "That was for having a smart mouth. Get up!" The soldier ordered. "Where are you going with that?" He asked, pointing to the sack as Zoe struggled to her feet.
Zoe glared at him, wiping the blood from her split lip with the back of her hand.
"What seems to be the problem here, Corporal?"
Zoe glanced behind her, relieved to see Captain Reinhardt had come over to see what the commotion was about.
"Well? I’m waiting, Corporal," Reinhardt said.
"I was checking her papers, sir."
"And giving her a slap in the process." Reinhardt glanced at Zoe, and then back to the corporal. "I’ll take it from here." With that he dismissed them and watched as they walked off. "You seem to attract trouble, Fraulein Lambros," he said with a smirk.
"I don’t mean to," Zoe mumbled.
"Where are you going?"
"I’m going to the cemetery and then taking some vegetables back to Kiria Despina," Zoe said quietly as she felt around her lip with tentative fingers.
Reinhardt looked at Zoe and lifted her chin with his finger, inspecting her bloody lip. She met his steely eyes and then she dropped her gaze as she remembered Father Haralambos’ instructions to appear meek and humble.
Reinhardt laughed. "You are a spirited little one." He chuckled. "I don’t think that look is quite humble enough, though. You need to work on it."
"I will," Zoe muttered as she looked down at her muddied clothes.
Reinhardt turned away from Zoe and looked at the fields where workers were stacking the wheat harvest. "I have a favor to ask you."
Zoe stayed calm even though her heart was racing. She didn’t say anything.
"I want you to make sure that nothing happens to Fraulein Muller."
"I can’t promise that. What if she trips and hits her head or---"
"Or gets hit with a rock to the back of her head?"
"Something like that."
Reinhardt smiled at Zoe and she found it most disconcerting. "Come now, Fraulein, you didn’t think I didn’t know?" He taunted as he continued to smirk. "You are in the Resistance."
"Is there a Greek who isn’t in the Resistance?" Zoe countered.
Reinhardt smiled. "Quite true, quite true." After a moment he said, "Tell whoever you talk to in the Resistance not to harm her. I like you. Don’t make me shoot you."
"That would be bad for me," Zoe commented dryly, as she looked up and ran her hand through her unruly hair. "I don’t think anyone wants to kill her --she’s not worth two hundred innocent lives."
"So we have an understanding."
"If you say so," Zoe replied and picked up her sack and hoisted it over her shoulder.
"We understand each other, don’t we?" Reinhardt chuckled.
Zoe nodded her response.
"Good. Now go on your way before your mistress starts yelling. God knows I don’t want to hear that," Reinhardt said as he watched Zoe walk away down the dirt road.
The rain clouds parted to allow slivers of sun to peek through and form patterns in the clouds. In another lifetime, Zoe would have stopped and taken the time to make patterns out of the formations. She paused outside the cemetery and made a decision. She walked towards the gate and entered. As she passed an elderly woman, she nodded and walked further in. Sitting beside her parents’ grave site was the local gravedigger waiting for her. A shovel lay at his feet.
"Andreas," Zoe greeted the man and chastely gave him a kiss on the cheek. "How are you?"
"I’m better now that I’ve seen your beautiful face."
"You are such a flirt." Zoe gently slapped Andreas on the shoulder. She reached into her coat and pulled out an envelope. "I couldn’t get these to Father Haralambos, so pass by and give them to him. I also have a favor to ask you. I’ve written it down."
"Alright, consider it done," Andreas replied. "I do enjoy our dates."
Zoe put her arm around Andreas and gave him a kiss. "You are my favorite boyfriend."
"I’ll let the wife know she is sharing me," Andreas chuckled as he picked up his shovel and walked away.
Zoe watched Andreas walk away for a long moment before she sat on the grass.
"Morning, Mama," Zoe greeted her mother as she pulled the weeds from her grave. A simple cross adorned the grave of Helena Lambros. "I know I haven’t come to see you in a few weeks, but things have moved so quickly." She paused and watched an elderly man shuffle away from a nearby grave.
"I don’t know how long this war is going to last for, but we have lost so many. We kill them, they kill us. They are all dying, Mama. All my friends are dying. Be sure to kiss them for me in Heaven."
The tears started to flow freely as Zoe sat on the ground, her arms around her knees. "You won’t believe what I’m doing now; even Papa would be laughing. I’m a personal maid to the beast’s daughter. Can you believe it? Me, the one you kept yelling at to clean up after herself." Zoe chuckled through her tears at the memory.
"Remember Father Haralambos? Well, he gave me quite a shock. Did you know he used to have a girlfriend before he became a priest? I never thought of him as anything but a priest...funny that. Turns out that the beast’s daughter isn’t his daughter. She’s Father Haralambos’ daughter. It’s worse than an ancient Greek drama. You would have loved that."
Zoe plucked some more weeds from the grave as she continued her one-sided conversation with her mother. "I was going to kill her, but now it’s good I didn’t. I would have killed an innocent woman. She wasn’t the one that laughed while you were dying. It was that evil nurse of hers." She stopped and plucked another weed from the grave. She sat there for a few minutes looking down at the weed in her hand. "Not to worry --tomorrow justice will be done."
Zoe stopped talking and gazed around the cemetery at some of the graves that had overgrown weeds around them.
"Her name is Eva." Zoe continued. "She has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen, even bluer than Apostolos’. They remind me of the time we spent on Lymnos and the Aegean was so blue."
She sighed. "And she’s tall, nearly gave me a neck pain from looking up at her. She has such a beautiful smile. I’ve only seen it once because she tends to scowl a lot. Aunty Despina said her family is cursed and I believe it."
Zoe stood up, picking up the sack of vegetables, and looked down at the grave. "I have to take the supplies to the housekeeper, but I’ll visit you again soon. Kiss Papa and the boys for me. I hope God knows what a special person you are." She closed her eyes for a moment. "I miss you, Mama," she said before walking away from the cemetery.
Despina was bustling in the kitchen, heating pots of water for Eva’s bath and trying to cook dinner, a task made all the more difficult with Zoe absent. Eva poked her head in, startling her.
"Sweet Jesus, Son of God and the Holy Ghost!" Despina exclaimed and crossed herself as Eva entered the kitchen.
Eva’s eyebrows rose into her hairline at the expletive from the normally quiet housekeeper.
"I’m sorry, Despina, I was looking for Zoe. Is she back yet?"
"No, Fraulein, she hasn’t returned yet. She is late and I’m---"
The door burst open and Zoe bustled in, muddied and wet. "I’m sorry I’m late," she said.
"Dear child, I thought something had happened to you," Despina said as she took the sack. She then noticed the mud and the split lip.
"What happened?" Eva queried, holding Zoe’s face toward the light.
"A corporal took offense--"
"What did you do?" Eva asked as she took a piece of linen and began washing Zoe’s face as soon as she sat down.
"I had been stopped by two patrols previously and so I just handed him my card. He wasn’t impressed," Zoe said quietly. "It was my fault."
"You probably annoyed him with your smart mouth," Eva said as she looked down into Zoe’s eyes. She was about to continue cleaning Zoe’s face, but she abruptly dropped her hand as if the cloth was on fire and averted her gaze. "Despina, can you please get my bath ready? I’ll see you soon," Eva said quickly and walked out of the kitchen.
Zoe glanced at Despina, who shrugged. "Come on, child, I’m late getting dinner ready and you know Major Muller hates eating late. Now empty the hot water in the buckets and take them upstairs."
Zoe nodded, but looked again at the door through which Eva had departed and frowned.
"What was that about?"
Despina turned around and glanced at Zoe. "Eva was worried about you and the curfew is due to start."
"She insulted me and you think she’s worried about me? I think she just wants her bath. She is the strangest woman I’ve ever met. One minute she’s nice and the next she races up the stairs like the devil himself was after her." Zoe helped empty the water into the bucket.
"She did not race up the stairs."
"She dropped the cloth like it was on fire. What the hell is wrong with that woman?" Zoe muttered as she picked up the bucket and slowly made her way up the stairs.
Chapter Twenty Three
Eva entered her room and shut the door. She rested her forehead on the door panel and slowly banged her head against it. "Oh, that was stupid!" She muttered. When Father Haralambos said to get close to Zoe, she was sure he didn’t mean to get attracted to her.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid." Eva continued to rebuke herself and hit her head with her hand. She would gleefully kill you if you made any move, she thought. Muller wouldn’t hesitate to praise Zoe either for killing his "perverted daughter".
"Not again." Eva closed her eyes tightly, trying to keep the memory of Muller’s rage being directed at her. The remembered vision of her father standing over her, his arm raised and ready to strike sent chills down her spine. That dark night her mother was murdered.
Eva walked into the house, dropping her knapsack on the floor. She felt empty inside. Her whole world had crumbled and the only person who understood her was gone. She slumped to the floor as tears flowed freely.
She heard her father and someone else leave the house, their voices subdued. She wasn’t sure how long she had been sitting on the floor. The door opened and her father walked in. He was still wearing his uniform, stained with blood...her beloved mutti’s blood.
"I am going to ask you a question and I want you to answer me truthfully," Muller said as he sat on a chair across from her. Eva could see the fury in his eyes and knew that she had done something terrible, but for the life of her she could not fathom what.
"Yes, Papa," Eva replied, her voice hoarse from crying.
"Where were you tonight?"
Eva brushed away tears as she looked up at her father, who she knew was barely controlling his temper. "I went with Greta and my friends and we...we burnt a synagogue," she replied quietly.
"Didn’t I tell you to be here tonight? Didn’t I tell you not to go out, to stay with your mother?"
"Yes, Papa, I told her I was going to be at Greta’s house and then I was going to come back--"
"You lied to her and to me. You disobeyed me!"
Eva cowered away from her enraged father, who stood over her. "Do you know what your disobedience has produced?"
Muller started to raise his voice, his face turned a bright shade of red, the veins in his neck pulsed rapidly and the control he had held so tenuously on his temper evaporated. "You." He pointed at Eva, who was cowering in a corner. "You killed your mother!"
"Oh, Papa..." she cried.
Muller picked Eva up by the collar of her blouse and slammed her against the wall. Grabbing her by the hair, he screamed, "I will not tolerate your disobedience!" Then he slapped her so hard that it split her lip and she slumped in a heap. She dared not utter a sound and cowered against the wall.
Eva’s silence only served to urge Muller on as he beat her across the back and legs for several minutes, screaming incoherently. Finally his anger was satiated for a while and he sat down heavily, his head in his hands. "You have disgraced me."
"I...I’m sorry, Papa." Eva hiccupped, tears staining her battered and bloodied face.
His voice rose as he neared the wide-eyed girl. "I will not tolerate a bastard child ruining my reputation!"
Eva looked at him, the confusion evident on her face. Muller stood and removed his belt. "I had someone tell me of your perversion. Did this person tell me the truth about you and Greta?"
When Eva said nothing to deny her father’s accusations, he exploded. "You disgust me!" he spat. "Do you know what this will do to my reputation? They will send me to the front for this. And you, do you know what they do to perverts in concentration camps?"
Muller folded the belt strap, popping it for effect and leaning over her, so close she could feel his breath. He hissed, "Is it true?"
But Eva could not speak, her words frozen in fear. "Answer me, damn it!" he demanded.
Eva remained motionless, which only served to explode the rage once again boiling inside her father.
What followed was the worst, cruelest beating she had ever received. The leather belt, so mercilessly used against her back, tore her skin open. But that pain was nothing compared to the mental anguish she now suffered. She had been beaten into the bottomless pit of guilt and shame and as she lay sobbing, blood covering her back and legs, Muller’s words "bastard child" tortured her until she wished she were dead.
That moment signaled the end of her freedom and the start of her longest waking nightmare. A nightmare she still endured after many months of incarceration and regular beatings.
"Fraulein Muller!" Despina’s worried voice penetrated Eva’s consciousness from beyond the closed bedroom door. Eva shook her head to clear the memories and wiped away her tears.
"I’ll be right there," Eva called out as she stood trying to compose herself. She wiped away her tears with a face cloth and undressed for her bath. She put on a robe and tied it with a sash before she left the room.
Eva followed Despina, who carried buckets of hot water from the kitchen into the bathing room. Zoe had been urged to clean up and soon began helping Despina carry the buckets of water and fill the tub. Eva walked into the room and nodded to Despina, who deposited some soap nearby.
"Thank you, Despina." Eva stood at the window watching the sun set over the quiet village. "Where is Dr. Uta?" She asked, hoping the doctor wasn’t going to be there.
"Don’t worry, sweetheart." Despina put her arm around Eva’s waist. "She is having dinner with your father and Nurse Edith."
Eva gave Despina a relieved look and nodded. "Zoe will help you with your bath," Despina said and left before Eva had a chance to say anything.
"Are you alright?" Zoe asked quietly, watching Eva still standing by the window.
Eva remained quiet, willing herself to get better control of her emotions before facing Zoe. Turning toward Zoe, she observed her worried countenance. "I’m sorry I left so abruptly."
"You know, I’ve had a split lip before. I’ll live," said Zoe, trying to lighten the mood. "Are you going to take a bath now, or should we get Despina to reheat it?"
Eva wondered if it had been a really bad idea to get a maid even if it was to help in the Resistance. The last thing she wanted was to disrobe in front of Zoe. With a sigh she pulled the sash open and removed her robe, hoping she wouldn’t have to explain the scar that ran across her stomach or those on her back.
Those hopes were dashed when Zoe gasped at the sight of the scars that went from Eva’s shoulders to below her waist. "What happened?" Zoe whispered.
Eva didn’t speak for a few moments and Zoe thought she wasn’t going to get an answer. "I don’t really want to discuss it," Eva told her quietly.
"They look old," Zoe continued, ignoring Eva’s request. She traced one particular deep scar, causing Eva to flinch. "I’m sorry; does it hurt?"
Eva shook her head. "No."
Zoe picked up the sponge and gently began to lather Eva’s back. "Who did this to you?"
Eva sighed. "Didn’t Nurse Edith tell you that I was caught up in a bomb explosion in France?" She closed her eyes.
There was silence for a moment and Eva wondered if Zoe would stay quiet.
"I’ve seen scars like this before. I had a friend once who was beaten by her father with his belt and it left scars like this. The top one here looks different..." Zoe murmured as she gently sponged Eva’s scarred flesh.
"That’s from the bombing."
"Zoe, please, shut up." Eva almost pleaded. Zoe’s hands massaging her neck, which were both gentle and firm, almost made her leap out of the bath to try and escape from the pleasurable sensations it was causing.
"Lean forward," Zoe asked, catching Eva by surprise. Clutching the edges of the bathtub, Eva leaned forward, which allowed Zoe to lather her hair. Eva almost purred from the pleasurable sensation of Zoe massaging her temples and then working up to her head.
"Does that feel good?"
"My mama used to do this when I had terrible headaches," Zoe explained as she continued the gentle massage.
"I don’t have a headache."
"You look like you do," Zoe responded and didn’t say anything further as she picked up the small basin and washed off the soap from Eva’s long black hair. She took the face cloth and gently wiped away the soap from Eva’s eyes. "I think you may want to wash the rest of you yourself."
Eva sighed with relief as Zoe picked up the basin and turned away, leaving Eva to wash herself. She watched Zoe as she stood at the window. Zoe did not turn around until Eva signaled she was ready to get out.
Eva was surprised at the gentle way Zoe helped her out of the bath and dried her off. It was some relief when Zoe brought her robe and gave it to her.
"You have soft hands. Thank you, I did enjoy the massage," Eva said and then walked to the door to go back to her room.
Zoe smiled. "I enjoyed that myself," she mumbled before she went to the chore of emptying the bath.
Eva was combing her hair when Zoe entered her room. Without a word, Zoe picked up the hairbrush and began to comb Eva’s long, dark, silky tresses.
"Why are you so nice to me?"
"You pay me to be nice," Zoe replied with a smirk. She glanced at Eva’s solemn face in the mirror. "You’re not who I thought you were," she observed as she brushed Eva’s long hair. "No one deserves to be beaten like a dog."
"Not even someone who is a Nazi?" Eva looked back at Zoe in the mirror. "I thought that would have given you pleasure."
Zoe stopped the brushing and looked at Eva’s reflection in the mirror. "It doesn’t give me pleasure to see such brutality. I’ve never met any Nazi like you. You’re not a Nazi."
"How can you be so sure?"
"You would have shot me when I threw that rock," Zoe said. They remained silent while Zoe started to braid Eva’s hair.
"My father did it," Eva said quietly and looked at Zoe’s reflection.
Zoe stopped braiding. "Another reason he’s going to burn in Hell," she muttered. "Even if I don’t believe in Hell, I think he’s going to rot."
It wasn’t the response Eva was expecting. "You’re not going to ask me why?"
"You will tell me when you want to tell me," Zoe reasoned and continued with her task. "You’re like my older brother --a clam."
"Yes. Michael would speak when he wanted to speak and the rest of the time he would be quiet. You remind me of him."
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Eva asked. Despite her first impressions of Zoe, it seemed it was going to be impossible not to like her. There was something about Zoe that made Eva feel comfortable, which was odd since Zoe wanted her dead.
"Because it is. You are a brooder, too. It’s not a good thing to brood."
"Oh." Eva smiled and looked in the mirror to find Zoe smiling back at her.
"So why did the idiot do that?"
"I wasn’t what he wanted me to be."
"I don’t understand," Zoe stated, and started on another braid.
Eva was certain Zoe was going to flee screaming out of the room and she braced herself for it. "I had a disease."
"What kind of father beats his daughter if she is ill? Not even animals would do that to their young."
Eva looked down at her hands. "It’s a disease of the mind."
"What kind of disease?"
Eva mentally rolled her eyes and wondered why she had started this conversation. Zoe never let up. "Do you always ask so many questions?"
"He found out that I had a lover," Eva whispered, her voice breaking. "He was terrified of what it would do...what it would do to his reputation."
Zoe stopped braiding Eva’s hair. "He got angry because you were having sex without being married?" she asked, sounding a little surprised. "It’s not good to have sex without being married, but there isn’t any need to lose your mind. That’s a little too Greek for a German."
"My lover was a woman."
Zoe blinked. She gazed into the mirror at Eva, who was staring back at her. "You’re so beautiful. Why would you want a woman?"
Eva almost laughed at Zoe’s naivety. "It doesn’t matter now. I’m cured."
Zoe didn’t say anything, which worried Eva, as Zoe was not short of an opinion. Zoe continued to braid her hair in silence.
"Is that what Dr. Uta was doing with you? Seeing if you were cured?" Zoe finally asked. She glanced at the mirror and saw Eva’s pale face. "You are scared of her."
"The mention of her name made you look like you wanted to throw up."
"Dr. Uta is a good doctor," Eva almost whispered and wished Zoe would be quiet again.
Zoe leaned down and whispered in Eva’s ear. "She’s not a good doctor because good doctors don’t make people fear them."
Eva didn’t respond to Zoe’s comment and they both fell silent. Zoe finished what she was doing and left the room.
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