Chapter Twenty Four

Zoe gazed outside and leaned against the wall watching Dr. Uta Baer’s luggage being loaded onto a truck. Edith was talking to one of the guards who were loading the truck.

"I hope you enjoy the ride down Athena’s Bluff and to hell," Zoe said just as Uta looked up at her and waved. She waved back and smiled at the doctor. Just as she was going to push away from the wall, she noticed Henry near the truck and wondered why he was there.

"Oh no no no no," Zoe muttered. She left her room and entered Eva’s study.

Eva looked up from writing the latest batch of letters for her father and noticed Zoe’s smiling face. "Yes?"

"I thought you would be ready to take your walk. Why aren’t you ready?"

"I’m going out later."

"Why? You know you have to go out and exercise in the morning--"

"Zoe, are you deaf? Didn’t you hear what I said? I’m not going out now. I have letters to write and I don’t feel like walking out in the cold."

"You need your exercise and I have my orders."

"From who?"

"Nurse Ratsger told me earlier today."

"I’m not going."

"We’re not going to the church. I thought you might like to go down to the river."

"That’s near the camp where the Jews are being kept. I don’t want to go there," Eva replied as she continued writing.

"No, it’s not near that horrid camp."

Eva sighed and put down her pen. She looked up at Zoe with an exasperated look on her face. "Why are you so eager to get me out of the house?"

"I don’t want to kill you, if that’s what you’re thinking."

"No, you could have done this in here rather than at the river."

"Too messy and I would have to clean it up," Zoe quipped, making Eva shake her head. "It’s going to be a lovely morning."

"It’s cold and windy."

"A lovely fresh morning."

Eva leaned back in her chair and stared at Zoe. "I’m not sure what you are up to, but fine. I’ll go out for a short time."

"I’ll go and tell Henry--"

"Henry is driving Dr. Baer to Athena’s Bluff."

"Alright, well, I’ll go round up two guards." Zoe reached the door before Eva stopped her.

"No. I don’t want other guards. Go downstairs and tell Henry to assign someone else."

"Are you sure? Henry may want a trip up the mountains."

"I don’t care what Henry wants."

"Yes, ma’am." Zoe gave her a mock salute and walked out of the room. She looked back, smiled and then raced down the stairs and jumped the last two steps and landed with a thump. She ran outside to where Henry was about to get into the truck.

"Sergeant Franz! Stop!"

Henry stopped and looked back as Zoe came rushing towards him. "Yes?"

"Fraulein Muller wants you to assign someone else to drive the car."

"Why? She said she wasn’t going out this morning. We’re going to be back by midday."

"She changed her mind."

Henry shook his head. "She is ruining my day."

"Trust me, she’s not," Zoe muttered under her breath. Henry threw the keys to another soldier and followed Zoe back into the house. She smiled as Henry grumbled and they walked up the stairs.

#

Zoe walked back towards the house followed by Eva and her two guards after their brief walk to the river. They stopped in the courtyard, where several soldiers were loading a truck. Reinhardt and Muller were standing outside.

"What’s going on?" Eva asked as she approached her fiancé and her father.

"There’s been an accident," Reinhardt replied. He put his arm around Eva’s waist. "Edith and Uta’s car was hit by a landslide and they lost control."

"Oh, no."

"We’re sending crews down the gorge to retrieve the car." Reinhardt kissed Eva on the cheek. "I know Uta was a dear friend; I’m sorry."

Zoe walked away and into the house. As she was walking up the stairs, she stopped, looked back and smiled before she continued her journey up the stairs.

Walking into her bedroom, Zoe closed the door and went to the window to watch the Germans down below. "For every time there is a season, a time to live and a time to die," she said aloud.

Moments later the door opened after a gentle knock alerted Zoe. She turned to see Henry enter and close the door. He stood with his arms folded.

"It was you."

"It was me? I pushed the car down the cliff?"

"No, I meant---"

"There was a landslide. We get them and they do cause accidents. I remember a few years ago, old man Salamias got stuck in one. Took his wagon right over the edge. Terrible."

"Zoe---"

"Was Dr. Baer a friend of yours?"

"No, I hated the woman but---"

"Nurse Ratsger a friend of yours?"

"No."

"Right then." Zoe threaded her arm through the crook of Henry’s elbow and looked up. "Do you know what Father Haralambos always says?"

"What does he say?"

"God works in mysterious ways. Maybe it was time for Nurse Ratsger and Dr. Baer to be called home. It just happens. I’m really glad that you were not driving that car." Zoe looked at Henry and smiled.

"Yes, so am I."

"So do we have a problem?"

Henry shook his head and walked out of the room leaving Zoe alone. "Nope, we don’t have a problem," she said aloud and chuckled.

 

Chapter Twenty Five

July 1944

The electric fan whirred, making more noise than circulating any cool air. Sweat trickled down Zoe’s face as she sat crossed legged on the floor in Eva’s office. She was sealing envelopes, a tedious job at the best of times, but on this hot day it had become a real chore. The only way to try and keep cool, Zoe found, was to sit on the floor, which wasn’t covered by any rug, and leave the door open hoping for a draft to cool things a little.

Muller had given her the job to do. The fact that Zoe was Eva’s maid didn’t stop him from giving her little jobs from time to time. The last six months had been a trying time with the Germans and the Resistance trading blows. The impact on the Greek population was brutal and talks of an Allied invasion were always in the forefront of any conversation.

It had also been a hard six months for Zoe, who was now working with Eva and Father Haralambos. At times it was extremely dangerous, and a couple of times Zoe thought their subterfuge would be uncovered. More luck than planning, each time something else happened that was far more important and diverted attention from their operation.

It was also six months of revelation as Zoe and Eva’s often testy relationship started to slowly develop. It began on the night of that first bath when Zoe helped Eva. That night Zoe saw not the cripple or the demon’s spawn, as she described Eva on numerous occasions, but a very broken soul. Zoe placed her hands on her knees and let her back rest against the sofa. She looked up at the lace curtains that were still; not a single breeze blew through the window to ruffle them.

"I hate summer," Zoe muttered as she sealed another envelope.

"You could use my desk," Eva said as she entered the office.

"It’s too hot," Zoe grumbled. "I’m nearly finished anyway."

Eva went over to the desk where Despina had left a jug of lemonade. Her long dark hair was up in a ponytail which made her look much younger than her twenty four years. Zoe watched Eva pour the lemonade into a glass for her. She looked away at the envelopes when Eva turned her way.

Eva smiled, and offered Zoe the drink. "You might like to drink this."

"Thank you." Zoe smiled and put the envelope down to accept the glass. As she did so, Eva looked down at the envelopes. She sat down on the sofa and picked up one in particular and rose to her feet. She stood in front of Zoe looking down at it. Zoe’s curiosity was piqued as Eva walked over to the window and stood looking out. Something about the envelope had caused her mood to change rapidly. Zoe scanned the envelopes in front of her and the one that was missing made her sigh. "Don’t you want to know what’s in the envelope?" She asked.

"I know what’s in it."

"What?"

"Sometimes it’s best not to ask questions."

"You know me --I always ask because if I don’t ask, how am I going to know what I need to know when I need to know it?" Zoe rambled on purpose, making Eva toss the envelope on the desk and chuckle.

Zoe took a drink from the cool glass of lemonade and surreptitiously watched Eva. Eva wore a white cotton dress with long sleeves that blended with the curtains. Her long black hair ponytail contrasted with the white material. The midnight blue highlights in her hair shimmered in the sunshine as she stood at the window, oblivious to Zoe’s stare. Zoe was completely mesmerized by the sight. Still clutching the drink she closed her eyes and memorized the image. She smiled.

#

Eva turned around and was puzzled at seeing Zoe sitting there with her eyes closed, holding the glass and smiling. "Zoe?"

Zoe opened her eyes immediately. "Um, yes?"

"What were you doing?"

Zoe drank the last of the lemonade and put the glass to one side. "Um, I...I was, um," she stammered. "Nothing," she said weakly, and smiled at the puzzled look on Eva’s face.

"Alright," Eva replied, not quite sure what had transpired. "It’s nearly noon. Do you want to take a break?" The daily noon siesta was a welcome relief from the heat of the day and Eva found she enjoyed the quiet that it brought. It was one Greek custom that she liked. Between noon and 3:00 p.m., the town fell quiet as everyone rested from the heat of the day.

"Yes." Zoe nodded vigorously and stood up. She braced herself against the sofa and fell into it rubbing her legs. "I think I’ve been sitting on the floor too long."

Eva didn’t respond but watched Zoe pick up the envelopes and the fountain pen.

Zoe looked up. "You’re upset."

"No--"

"You’re also a very bad liar," Zoe replied matter-of-factly. She put the envelopes down on the desk. "You have your scrunchy face on."

"My ‘scrunchy’ face on?"

"I’ve seen it many times over the last six months." Zoe shrugged. "You have a little furrow between your eyes that goes all scrunchy when you’re upset or you are not feeling well."

Eva brought her fingers up to massage the area between her eyes. "I didn’t know you paid so much attention to me. Or is that where the imaginary target is located?"

"No, my target was a little higher up," Zoe teased. They looked at each other and then smiled. "Why are you upset?"

"It’s addressed to my uncle," Eva explained and held up the envelope.

"The great Dr. Muller who cured you of your disease?"

"Yes."

"So why are you afraid of him?"

Eva shook her head. "I really don’t want to talk about it, Zoe."

"Alright," Zoe replied. "I think I’ll go now and have a bit of a rest."

"Are you going to your room?"

"No, I want to get out of the house and go up to Athena’s Bluff."

"And then what?" Eva continued, not knowing why she was even asking since it was none of her business.

Zoe smiled. "Is this an interrogation?"

"Nein, Fraulein, an interrogation is when we use the feathers," Eva replied in German and did a mock Hitler salute. It had truly been the first time she had shown this much humor and Zoe appeared to be shocked for a moment and then started to laugh.

Eva leaned against the desk and crossed her arms across her chest. Seeing Zoe double up laughing was a nice sight and it made her feel good.

"Oh, that hurt," Zoe said in between bouts of the giggles. "I didn’t think Germans had a sense of humor."

"We hide it well." Eva chuckled at Zoe’s incredulous look. They both smiled at each other and Zoe was the first to break the contact by shyly looking away.

"Um, I’m going to go now."

"Where?"

Zoe looked back and smiled. "Didn’t I say Athena’s Bluff?"

Eva nibbled her lower lip and wondered if she could ask Zoe if she could come along. Despite her better judgment, despite everything that screamed at her to keep Zoe at arm’s length, she found herself wanting to know more about this volatile youngster she had come to care for more than she should. Playing with fire, you’re going to get burnt, a tiny voice echoed in her mind, but she ignored it.

"Do you want to come with me?" Zoe asked from the open doorway.

"Can I?"

"If you want to, yes, you can come with me."

"Only if you’re sure…" Eva continued a little timidly. She was feeling awkward and she hated it, but she really wanted to go and get out of the house.

Zoe rolled her eyes. "I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it."

"Oh, okay." Eva nodded and went to get her hooded cloak.

"It’s boiling hot outside. You don’t want that."

"Yes, I do," Eva replied and put on the cloak. She was feeling very hot with the cloak on, but she pulled up the hood that shielded her face and turned back to Zoe.

"You really don’t need that, Eva." Zoe grumbled. "You look like you’re about to faint away," she admonished, forgetting who Eva was.

"I have to---"

"No, you don’t. Everyone knows what you look like, so you can’t hide."

"Yes, I do, it keeps me feeling safe." Eva stammered. She always wore her cloak, didn’t leave the house without it. She knew it was ridiculous but she felt safe, in a strange kind of way.

"Trust me, if the Resistance wanted you dead, a cloak wouldn’t save you," Zoe mumbled as Eva refused to remove the garment.

Eva was about to join Zoe when she turned back and picked up her handbag.

They silently walked down the stairs and out of the building into bright sunlight and high humidity. Eva nodded to her guards, who marched behind her.

Zoe kicked a stone as if it was a ball as they walked down the cobblestone street, completely unaware of Eva’s fond gaze. The plaza was eerily quiet with only the occasional cat to notice their progress along with the guards.

Zoe glanced at Eva and smiled at Eva, who was bearing up well in the heat. She was moving freely but a little slower than Zoe’s stride. Zoe compensated by going slower, allowing Eva not to exert herself. Before they knew it, they were slowly making their way up the tree lined slope to the top of Athena’s Bluff.

"Are you alright?" Zoe asked. You don’t look so good."

"I don’t feel so good." Eva grimaced and took out a handkerchief and patted down her face. She looked back at her two guards, who weren’t looking comfortable either.

"Come on." Zoe took Eva by the hand, much to her surprise, and set off in the opposite direction to the bluff.

"Where are we going?" Eva asked, and stopped, causing Zoe to skid to a stop as well.

"My cabin," Zoe replied and pointed to a log cabin only meters from where they stood. She stood outside the cabin for a moment before she pushed the door in and entered, leaving Eva outside.

"Well, are you coming in?"

"Are we allowed?" Eva asked through the open door, which caused Zoe to start laughing. "I didn’t think that was funny."

"I never thought I would hear a German asking me if they were allowed to do anything." Zoe giggled. "Yes, you can come in."

Eva entered the cabin and was surprised to find it furnished and looking very inviting. The windows had lace curtains hung as limply as she felt. An old sofa dominated the largest area in the cabin with a bed at the side. A table and two chairs were off to the other side. In the middle of the floor was a large flokati rug.

"This is nice."

"This is my home." Zoe smiled and looked around the cabin. "This was my middle brother Thieri’s house," she said. "He was building it himself. He was working as a builder, you know."

Eva wasn’t sure what to say to the revelation and decided to stay quiet. She went over to a chair and sat down. She felt faint and tried not to show her discomfort, but Zoe came forward and knelt beside her chair.

"You should not have worn that stupid cloak." Zoe untied the clasp and removed Eva’s cloak and threw it to the other end of the cabin.

"I’ll be fine soon."

"Yes, you will," Zoe replied as she turned and rummaged through some clothing that was stacked against the wall in the unfinished bedroom. She came back with a towel and went outside. Eva could see Zoe walk to a large tin drum that held rain water right next to the door. Zoe dipped the towel in the water, squeezed the excess water and came back inside.

Kneeling before Eva, Zoe tenderly wiped her face. For a brief moment their eyes met, making them smile. "On the way back you are not wearing that stupid cloak."

"How else would everyone know it’s me?"

"Let’s confuse them for a little while," Zoe responded and got up from the floor.

"What did Thieri look like?" Eva asked, breaking the silence.

"He had big ears." Zoe smiled. "Big ears and a big heart."

"Big ears?"

Zoe put her hands over her own ears and chuckled, which earned her a very puzzled look from Eva. "I used to tease him about his ears," Zoe continued. "I used to say that when he lost all his hair and went as bald as a rock, his ears would stick out like jug handles." She chuckled and then sighed deeply. "I won’t see that happen now."

Eva was once again struck mute and didn’t think she would be able to console Zoe at the loss of her brother and her family.

"Thieri had all the girls after him," Zoe continued her reminiscence. "He would sometimes get so broody he would come up here and just be by himself."

"Is that why he chose this place?"

"I guess so," Zoe replied. "He owned all the land around here, including Athena’s Bluff. He cut the wood himself and built this cabin. He said once he finished it he would ask Katerina to marry him."

"Did he?"

Zoe turned to Eva and shook her head. "He never finished it," she said quietly. "When the Italians invaded, he went to fight and he never came back."

"So all of this is yours now?"

Zoe leaned against the edge of the table and nodded. "I own the farm, the fields on the west of Larissa and the east side near the farm, this cabin and another house in town."

"How many brothers did you have?"

"Three. Michael, the oldest, then Thieri, and the youngest was Theodore. He was ten years older than me and I was closest to him."

"All redheads like you?"

Zoe grinned and shook her head. "No, Michael and Thieri resembled my father, who had dark hair and brown eyes. My mother was the redhead with green eyes. Theo and I took after her."

Both women fell silent and then Zoe spoke again. "Why don’t you have a bit of a sleep? You’re going to need your strength to go back down again."

"I’m alright."

"No, you’re not." Zoe pushed herself away from the table and once against knelt in front of Eva. Without asking she lifted Eva’s skirt and unhooked the panty hose from the garter belt from Eva’s left leg. Eva shut her eyes and tried to keep calm as Zoe’s soft hands brushed against her thighs. Zoe was completely unaware of what she was doing to Eva emotionally. "I don’t know why you keep wearing these stockings in the middle of summer," she said as she rolled the stocking off Eva’s long leg. She unhooked the panty hose from the garter belt for the right leg, which caused Eva to inhale sharply. Zoe looked up to find Eva was looking more than a little pale.

"You really should have left that stupid cloak back home," Zoe muttered as Eva rose from the chair and went to the bed and lay down. Without another word, Eva closed her eyes. She opened them moments later.

"I’m sorry, I took your bed."

Zoe smiled. "It’s alright. I wanted to draw so you just have a rest while I draw and later I can show you the rest of Athena’s Bluff."

"That sounds nice," Eva smiled and closed her eyes.

 

Chapter Twenty Six

Eva woke a little groggy from her extended sleep. She opened her eyes hoping to see Zoe nearby but she was on her own. She sighed heavily as she sat up. She ran her fingers through her long hair and got up from the bed. A large note was sitting on the table. Eva picked it up and smiled on reading the neat writing.

I’m outside at the lookout; just come on over, Sleeping Beauty

Z

Eva pocketed the note and ran her fingers through her hair again. She looked around the cabin for a mirror but there wasn’t one anywhere in sight. She straightened her skirt and shirt and put on her shoes. She looked around for her stockings but she couldn’t see them. With a slight shrug she forgot about them and opened the door.

Henry and the other guard whose name she couldn’t remember but thought was Kurt Barkow, were sitting under the shade of a tree looking very relaxed and playing cards.

Henry looked her way and smiled. He pointed to the outcrop and went back to his card game.

Eva closed the cabin door and made her way to the outcrop which was only meters away from the cabin. She stood in the clearing and admired the view. In front of her was the grand vista of Mount Ossa, tufts of white clouds ringing the summit and an expanse of blue surrounding the majestic mountain. It was the vision sitting on a blanket at the outcrop that made her catch her breath. Zoe had laid out a blanket that covered most of the rocky surface and had taken several pillows and positioned them so she could lie down. She was using one as a pillow and her legs were drawn up and were being used as a brace for her sketchpad.

Oh my god, she is so beautiful. Eva watched Zoe stop what she was doing and raise her hand. She couldn’t see what she was looking at but Zoe brought her hand up close to her eyes for a moment before she smiled.

Stop it. You know where this will lead. Stop it now. Stop. Don’t do anything; she is not worth the pain. My god, she has a beautiful smile, and those eyes… Eva’s internal conversation with herself continued as she moved forward towards Zoe. She reached Zoe to find her talking to her hand.

"What are you doing?"

"I’m telling Lilly that I’m going to put her down somewhere other than on my hand," Zoe replied and picked up the ladybug and put her on the rock. She looked up at Eva and shielded her eyes with her hand. "Good afternoon, sleepyhead. Have a seat."

Zoe sat down cross-legged on the edge of the lookout, which was shaded by a huge overhanging tree. She beckoned Eva to sit next to her, but Eva was hesitant about getting close to the edge.

"I promise I won’t throw you off," Zoe teased and patted the blanket covered ground.

Eva sat down and took the pillow that Zoe had given her and braced her back against the boulder. She let her long legs dangle from the edge. "Wish I had brought my camera."

"You have a camera?"

Eva nodded. "I have a Super Ikonata. I’m surprised I haven’t shown it to you before now."

"Interesting." Zoe nodded.

Eva smiled. "You don’t know what I’m talking about, right?"

Zoe shook her head. "Sounds German."

"That’s because it is." Eva chuckled. "I’ll show it to you when we get back."

"I don’t know much about cameras. I just like to draw. I memorize things and then I draw them."

"What do you like to draw?"

"Things that touch me," Zoe replied. "I let my heart decide what to draw and my hand creates it."

Eva had never asked any artist that question even though she had spoken to quite a few when she’d visited galleries with her mother in Germany. Zoe’s response wasn’t what she had expected. In fact she wasn’t even sure what she expected to hear. "So you draw what’s in your heart?"

"Yes." Zoe nodded. "I draw my family and my friends. I love to draw landscapes. What kind of photos do you like taking?"

Eva smiled. "The sea."

"Why the sea?"

Eva looked out over to the mountain and tracked a small tuft of cloud as it lazily drifted before she answered. "I can see the power of the sea and its gentleness. Underneath its tranquil surface, there are thousands of things going on we can’t see."

"That’s very poetic."

"I like poetry." Eva smiled. "I write some as well."

"They say that good poets need to be really high in order to write," Zoe replied. "My brother Michael told me that, but I couldn’t figure out why they needed to get high up a mountain to write."

Eva thought Zoe was pulling her leg but Zoe wasn’t smiling. She just had the most puzzled expression on her face. Eva didn’t laugh, even though she wanted to, at her naiveté. "I think they mean they were on drugs."

"How silly is that?" Zoe asked and shook her head. "How can you write if you can’t think! If I have a headache I can’t even get up to eat."

Eva chuckled. "Some people can."

"Weird," Zoe mumbled and threw a tiny pebble down the rocky outcrop.

"What were you drawing?"

Zoe reached out and brought the sketchbook to her. She flicked to the page she was working and handed the sketchbook to Eva.

Eva looked down at the pencil drawing of herself. She was standing near the window in profile back at the house. She realized that it was just a few hours ago and Zoe had memorized what she was wearing and how she wore her hair. She even added the hairclip and its intricate style.

"Wow," Eva exclaimed. "You have a very good memory. This is very good."

"Thank you. My mother used to say that I have a photographic memory and that it was a gift, especially for an artist."

"She was right. You both have a very beautiful gift..erm I mean she had," Eva quickly corrected herself. She wanted to slap herself for being so insensitive. "What was your mama like?"

Zoe smiled and closed her eyes. "My mama was the most giving, loving woman. She loved to paint and she loved beautiful things. My papa loved her so much." Zoe unclipped the chain of a small locket she wore and took it off. She opened it to reveal a small photograph inside of it. She handed it to Eva.

Eva took it and gazed at an old photograph of a much younger Zoe with her mother. The resemblance was unmistakable, and if Eva hadn’t known it was Zoe’s mother, she would have thought it was Zoe. "She’s beautiful."

"She was." Zoe smiled. "She never left Larissa, but she loved to read and my papa used to bring her books from Thessaloniki about art and prints she liked." Zoe’s voice broke with emotion.

"I’m sorry, I didn’t mean---"

"No, it’s alright," Zoe replied, and took a deep breath before slowly exhaling. "I miss her every day. I think about her, my papa and my brothers all the time. One day it won’t hurt so much that they’re gone, but I don’t think that will happen until I join them."

"Do you think they’re in Heaven?"

Zoe smiled and looked up at the bright blue sky. "Yes, I think so. My mama is probably asking God to paint the next rainbow." She chuckled. "I remember when a rainbow would appear and my mama would look up at it and tell me that God assigned an angel to paint it."

"That’s beautiful." Eva smiled.

"Every time I looked up and there was a rainbow, I would compare it to other rainbows and try and see if the angel did a good job." Zoe laughed.

"What about your father?"

"My papa," Zoe said with a fond smile. "He was the finest man I have ever known. He died helping two Australian soldiers trying to pass the gorge during a fierce battle with the Germans." She looked out at the now somewhat peaceful vista. "In the early hours of 16 April 1941 Papa took a wagon and two Australian soldiers, one was wounded, and tried to get them across to the other side. They never made it."

"I’m sorry."

"Not your fault." Zoe glanced at Eva for a moment. "My papa died a hero trying to save our Allies. Father Haralambos tells me he will be rewarded in heaven for his bravery. When the war is over, I want to travel to Australia."

"It’s on the other side of the planet."

"I know; far from this place."

The two fell silent as they both threw pebbles and pieces of wood down the gorge. After a long moment Eva turned to Zoe. "Did you really think I laughed when your mama was dying?"

"Yes. I thought it was the ugliest thing someone could do with so much death all around them."

Eva stayed silent for a moment and twisted the ring on her finger. "I didn’t."

Zoe looked away into the far horizon and sighed. "I know." She turned to Eva and smiled. "I know it wasn’t you."

"I thought you didn’t believe me when I told you."

"I didn’t," Zoe replied and played with a twig that was sticking out of the rock nearby. "I found out who did laugh."

"Who was it?"

"Nurse Gestapo," Zoe responded as she focused on Eva’s face. "Is there a reason you nicknamed her Nurse Gestapo?"

"There is a reason."

"It’s good that she’s no longer with us, isn’t it?"

Eva pursued her lips. "It was a very tragic accident."

"Very tragic." A smile creased Zoe’s face. "A terrible shame they couldn’t control the car and down it went into the gorge. It was also a shame that Dr. Baer was with her. She appeared to be a good friend of yours."

Eva bowed her head and stared down at the blanket covered ground. "No, she wasn’t."

"She seemed to act like it."

"She was my uncle Dieter’s mistress and assistant medical director in Aiden," Eva replied as she lifted her head and met Zoe’s intense gaze.

"Uncle Dieter is going to be very unhappy."

A slight smile creased Eva’s face at Zoe’s words. "We’re in a war and she came into a war zone."

"Where is Aiden?"

"It’s a small town in Austria."

"Is that where they cured you of the disease you had?" Zoe asked as she leaned forward and brought a pillow towards her. She hugged the pillow and turned her attention to Eva.

"Yes."

"Can I ask you a question?"

Don’t ask me, Zoe. Please, don’t ask me. Zoe was watching Eva intently. Eva often wondered if Zoe could see into her soul by the way she was looking at her.

"What happened in France?"

Phew! Eva was relieved Zoe didn’t ask the most obvious question. "What about it?"

"You were working with the Resistance. Why didn’t they warn you about the bomb?’

"I planted the bomb," Eva answered quietly. Zoe put her hand over her mouth in shock. "The Resistance couldn’t get the bomb into the house so I volunteered."

"You were going to bomb yourself?"

"Their plan was to kill my father and my uncle, who had come to France to further his medical…work."

"What went wrong? Your father and uncle are still alive."

"Sadly, yes," Eva muttered under her breath. "The bomb went off as planned but my father had moved rooms to be with Nurse Gestapo and my uncle stayed with his mistress."

"Shit."

"And I wished for a quick death," Eva almost whispered the admission that had been a silent prayer for many years. "God did not agree with me."

"That’s why you couldn’t walk for a long time?"

"Yes, the ceiling collapsed on top of me." Eva nodded. "I don’t know how I survived but I must have a guardian angel."

"You need to get God to sack your guardian angel --he is doing a terrible job," Zoe suggested, making Eva smile. "No, really he should."

"Everything happens for a reason."

"You really believe that? I don’t know. That bombing left you in a worse condition."

"What do you mean?

"I’ve seen our dearly departed Nurse Gestapo and Nurse Blondie give you medication now for six months."

Eva wondered how much she was willing to tell Zoe. She knew if she said too much it might be used against her later, but then Zoe knew about her activities in the Resistance. After the past year, Zoe already had ammunition to hurt her if she wanted to. Can I trust her more? Eva sat silent for a long moment looking out over the horizon. "Yes and no."

"Is this one of those ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ times?" Zoe asked and picked up another pebble and threw it over.

Eva picked up her own pebble and fingered the smooth surface for a moment. "I take it for the pain and other things," she said and threw the pebble down the slope.

"I hate taking pills." Zoe watched Eva as she threw another pebble. "You’re not in pain all the time, are you?"

"I get terrible migraines and when that happens my back goes out as well," Eva admitted. "Some days I can’t think straight, and I’m sorry but I take it out on you. Other days I’m fine. I’m under doctor’s orders to take them all the time."

"I find that strange. If you’re not in pain, why take pills for pain when you don’t need them?" Zoe shook her head. "What was your mama like?" She asked, taking Eva completely by surprise at the way she had changed the subject.

"My mutti---"

"Mutti?"

Eva smiled. Mixing her German with the Greek was confusing for Zoe. Over the past year, she would throw in German words when she couldn’t remember the Greek. "I’m so used to calling her that. Mutti means mommy in German," she explained.

"What was her name? You haven’t spoken of her since the first day I arrived in your house and you pulled out her picture."

"Daphne." Eva smiled. "She loved art, just like your mama. She took me to the Louvre in Paris to see all the beautiful work."

"You went to the Louvre?" Zoe’s eyes grew wide. "Was she an artist?"

"No, sadly my mama did not have your gift, but she tried. Yes, she took me to the Louvre. You can spend days in there." Eva loved the famous French gallery and had spent three long hot summer weeks in 1935 in Paris with her mother and grandmother. "She also loved gardening and we would spend hours out in the garden taking care of the flowers. During the summer we would go to flower shows and tour palaces with beautiful gardens."

Eva closed her eyes and the memory of summer filled days out in the garden with her mother came flooding back; memories that had been buried in the past few years. She opened her eyes and smiled at Zoe. "Sometimes we forget the good things. Being around you like this reminds me to do just that."

"So, you honestly had a maid?"

"Yes."

"I’ve never met anyone who was rich other than Danalos Faksomoulos. When we got news that the Italians were going to invade from Albania, he left Greece. I heard he went to America."

Eva couldn’t help but smile at Zoe’s easy going manner. Zoe had come a long way since that angry young woman who wanted to kill her. At the time, Eva hadn’t fooled herself into thinking Zoe wouldn’t kill her. But the more they got to know each other, the less likely it would be that Zoe would find her to be that "evil Nazi bitch" she used to call her. Kill them with kindness. Eva smiled at the memory of her best friend and his wise words from so many years ago.

"Why are you smiling? Not that I don’t like you to smile, but you looked like you were very far away."

Eva turned her attention to Zoe. "I was just remembering my childhood best friend, Wilhelm. He was someone I used to talk to, just like this."

"He was a boy?"

"Oh, yes." Eva chuckled at the look on Zoe’s face. "Lesbians can have friends that are boys, you know."

Zoe was momentarily stunned into silence at Eva’s dry sense of humor. "That was actually funny," she said after she recovered. "But you’re not a lesbian anymore. You’re cured, right?"

"Y..yes," Eva stammered and hesitantly looked up to find intense green eyes gazing back at her. The two women smiled at each other for a long moment before Eva broke eye contact and looked away.

Oh, how smart is that, Eva? You almost kissed her in front of the guards! Why don’t you go over to where the guards are and you can kiss her there! Eva mentally chastised herself. She spared a glance at Zoe, who had found a little lizard in the rock crag and was playing with it. Eva smiled when she saw Zoe put the lizard down on the rock and let it go.

Zoe looked up to find Eva staring at her and smiled. "Lizards need to be free as well."

"I’m sure they do."

"So, you’re this rich girl. What do rich girls do with their time?"

"I went to university..."

"Really? I knew a girl who went to Athens to study at the university. She was very smart and Michael was sweet on her. So even if you were rich, you still wanted to go to university?"

"Yes. I studied languages," Eva replied proudly.

"Hmm, so Lunatic Muller let you go?"

"Is that his new nickname?"

"Yes, until I can think of something else," Zoe replied with a smile on her face that put a twinkle in her eyes.

"He had no choice. My grandmother’s word was law, so I went."

"So, what did your grandfather do to become rich?"

"Has anyone ever told you that you ask too many questions?"

"Yes. You have, many times. So, if you just answer my questions, I won’t have to ask so many in the future."

"That doesn’t stop you --you’ll find new questions." Eva smiled. "My grandfather owned the largest steel making factory. AEMullerStahl, have you heard of it?"

"No. That doesn’t sound interesting." Zoe paused in thought. "You don’t talk about your family a lot."

"No," Eva replied as she picked up a pebble and held it in her hand. "Sometimes I don’t want to think about what my life was like before my mother died."

"If you don’t think about them, how do you honor their memory?"

Eva looked at Zoe for a moment. It was true, she didn’t talk about her family a great deal, even though the loss of their love was still quite raw. "My grandmother isn’t dead."

"But you talk about her like she’s dead."

Eva shook her head and sighed. "She isn’t dead. I am."

"You look very much alive to me."

Eva smiled at Zoe’s response. "I haven’t heard from my grandmother for years now. I’ve written to her, but she has never replied. I sent letters back with my father before he was stationed in France to give to her, but I didn’t hear back."

"Maybe she didn’t get the letters."

"She got them. I know she did."

"We’re in the middle of a war. How do you know the letters were even delivered to her?"

Eva was silent contemplating those words. "She at least received the letters I sent with my father."

"Muller? You gave them to that crazy man? Why?"

"He’s my father."

"Father H is your father, not that lunatic."

"I didn’t know that at the time. I know you don’t understand, but I loved that man. I think I still do. And despite everything that has happened, I do have happy memories from when he wasn’t acting as crazy."

Zoe paused. "That’s hard to believe. No father who loved his child would hurt his child — not like your father hurt you."

Eva was amazed at the sheer ignorance of that statement. It was so clear cut for Zoe. So black and white — no grays or any other shade. A father loved his child and wouldn’t hurt them. It was how Zoe was brought up and so different from her own history. "In a perfect world, a father would never hurt his child. We don’t live in a perfect world."

"I don’t understand it. Maybe Germans are different."

Eva wanted to laugh at the absurd comment, but chose not to. Zoe was a teenager living through a war and yet blissfully unaware of the realities of life other than what she saw in the village, even with the occupation. Zoe was simply a young girl and, had it been peacetime, wouldn’t be any wiser. Eva envied such a blissful existence.

"Maybe they are," Eva replied and smiled. "I’m sure my father gave the letters to my grandmother, and I know why I haven’t heard from her. She’s ashamed of me and I don’t blame her. I have shamed the entire family." She looked away, not wanting Zoe to see the tears that streamed down her face. She wiped them with the back of her hand and took a deep breath, held it, and then exhaled slowly. Losing her beloved mother was gut wrenching, but losing the love of her grandmother hurt her deeply because she knew she would be disappointed in her.

"Well, that’s silly. You were a lesbian and you’re cured, not a murderer."

"You don’t know what that means."

"I know what it means. It means that you used to love women instead of men." Zoe shrugged. "Does it mean something else?"

"It means that you are sick and need to be cured."

Eva knew Zoe didn’t understand what a "cure" entailed. "The pills — I also take pills to stop me from having feelings for women," Eva admitted. If only that was the only way they have tried to "cure" me of these feelings.

"Oh." Zoe nodded. "I thought you said you were cured. You don’t look sick to me other than your back problem. You don’t act funny, so you can’t be sick in the head." Zoe paused, turning her head in thought. "I don’t know why you need to be cured when you’re already cured, unless you’re not. So, that’s why you take those pills, to cure you? Do they work?"

"Umm. They make me sick sometimes. Umm...I don’t know, I guess they work," Eva responded and then looked away.

"You don’t feel like thinking about women, so they must work." Zoe grinned and lightly tapped Eva on the knee, causing her to smile. "So, when you do think about women ‘that way,’ how does it feel?"

Eva cocked her head a little and gazed at Zoe with a smile. "Why?"

"I’m curious. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to a lesbian before."

Eva smiled and then started to laugh. It had been a long time since she felt so light-hearted. "I think you might have met a few, but they don’t have signs on them saying ‘I’m a lesbian.’"

"So did you just wake up one morning and discover you were a lesbian?"

She’s awfully interested in this. Could she be...no... Zoe looked back at Eva with such innocence that Eva wondered if she was imagining something that wasn’t there. "No." Eva shook her head. Stop it, Eva. She’s just curious. "It’s a long story."

"You don’t want to tell me?"

"I don’t want to tell you. Maybe another day."

"All right. Have you got those pills with you?"

"Yes," Eva replied and took out a small bottle she kept with her.

Zoe took it off her and read the German label. "What would happen if I took them?"

Eva found Zoe’s question puzzling. "Why would you want to take them? They would make you sick because they are not for you."

"I was just curious. Do you know what would happen if you were to lose these?"

"I’d be given more."

"When?"

"I guess when Nurse Klein gets back from Thessaloniki in a few days," Eva replied, wondering why Zoe was asking.

"Good," Zoe said and promptly threw the bottle down the ravine, causing Eva to lean over a little to watch its descent.

"Oh!" Eva was surprised at Zoe’s actions. "I don’t think you should have done that."

"Who’s going to tell on me?" Zoe grinned.

"I’m not going to tell." Eva looked over the precipice again and smiled. "I have no idea what happened to those pills. They make me very forgetful." They looked at each other and grinned. Zoe glanced at Eva for a moment and then looked away. She continued to gaze over the mountain, lost in thought or so Eva thought. It had gone very quiet; the cicadas had stopped chirping and there was a silence which unnerved Eva a little. She was startled when Zoe finally decided to speak.

"Do you really believe God has a plan?"

"Yes."

"Well, if God had a plan, why did he choose to take my mama and yours?"

"I don’t know." Eva sighed. "How do you explain us being friends?"

"We’re friends?"

"I think so. Aren’t we?"

"You want to be friends with someone who wanted to kill you?"

"You wanted to kill me. You don’t anymore...well, I hope you don’t." Eva worriedly looked at Zoe, who had a mischievous look on her face. "You don’t, do you?"

"I don’t kill friends," Zoe replied, and reached out and tweaked Eva’s chin.

Eva was completely taken by surprise by the very intimate gesture and she smiled. The only person who had ever done that before was her friend Wilhelm, who for some reason enjoyed tweaking her dimpled chin. She never understood why and now Zoe had done the same thing.

"Did I do something funny? I just find your dimple cute."

She finds my dimple cute? Oh, dear... Don’t be silly, she’s just being friendly. Don’t get excited, you’ve had friends before; she’s just being friendly; a little too friendly but there is nothing to it --she’s young and she doesn’t understand. Eva gave Zoe a very shy smile.

"You should do that more often."

"What?"

"Smile. It makes you look younger."

Is she flirting with me? Come on, Eva, stop being stupid. She’s just being friendly. "You have a very nice smile as well," she said without thinking and mentally slapped herself. Smooth, Eva. Very smooth. She’s not interested in you, so stop this right now. Stop it before you get yourself killed.

"I do?" Zoe spoke softly.

"Um...yes. When you smile, it reaches your beautiful eyes. It doesn’t make you look younger because you’re already younger...I mean...uh...you’re young and you have a lovely smile and umm..." Eva stammered to a stop and couldn’t quite believe it was her that was acting life a goofy teenager. Shut up! Will you just shut up!

"Are you alright?"

"Ye...no," Eva stammered. "Let’s go back; I think this heat is getting to me."

Zoe got up quickly from the rock and offered her hand to Eva, who took it. As she got up, Zoe put her arm around her waist. "I think the heat is getting to me too."

Oh, yes, it must be the heat. Eva quickly glanced at Zoe before they joined her guards for the trek back to the house — and back to being who they were supposed to be.

 

 

Chapter 27

12 October 1944

The wind picked up as Zoe walked purposely towards the cemetery. It had been a few weeks since she last visited the graves of her parents and brothers. With her new found role as Eva’s maid and their resistance activities she couldn’t spend as much time as she wanted at the cemetery. Today was her 16th birthday. Birthdays were not celebrated these days but she wanted to spend some time with her parents.

Zoe 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. She made her way to her parent’s grave site and knelt beside the grave and started to pluck the weeds which had sprouted from her last visit.

"Good morning, Mama, I have some good news. It wasn’t Muller’s daughter but someone else who laughed when I was holding you as you lay dying." Zoe felt her throat tighten. She could barely say the words without the overwhelming feelings of anger and despair. She pushed those feelings aside to continue talking to her mother. "I took care of that heartless cow." Her voice caught. She blinked away the tears and, wiping at her eyes, she took a deep breath and continued. "She’s roasting in hell as we speak."

Zoe plucked some more weeds from the grave. "Good thing I didn’t kill Eva, because not only is she innocent but she’s also helping us in the Resistance." She sat there for a few minutes looking down at the weed in her hand. "She is so beautiful. She has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. They remind me of the time we spent on Lymnos and the Aegean was so blue. When she looks at me, I sometimes forget what I’m doing."

Zoe smiled, and despite no one being around, she felt shy about saying these words aloud, words that had been in her mind for the last few months. "And she’s tall, nearly gives me a neck pain from looking up at her so I have her sit down to talk. That way I can look at her eyes. Remember how I said I didn’t like tall boys? I don’t think that applies to girls," Zoe admitted and hoped that her mother wasn’t disappointed with her. It had been the first time she had said aloud the reason she didn’t like any of the boys that offered to marry her --it wasn’t because they were not nice but because they were not the right gender. "She’s not like the other girls in the village, Mama, she’s different. I hope you’re not upset with me. I’ve tried not to think about her but it’s a little difficult when—um..." She stopped talking and blushed. "Maybe you don’t need to know the other part," she added and gently brushed her hand over the cross on her mother’s grave.

"I’m sixteen today. Didn’t think I would live to see fourteen but here I am. The Allies have landed in Normandy. I didn’t know where that was but Eva showed me on a map. That’s her name. Eva Theresa Muller. Isn’t that a beautiful name? I’m not sure why she has two names but Germans are funny. Eva says that the war is going badly for the Germans and we may soon see an end to it." Zoe watched the sky lighten and the sun begin to make its ascent.

"I have so much to tell you about what is going on in the village…"

#

Father Haralambos made his way down the street deep in thought. The war was still raging but the Allies had landed in Normandy in June, and that was good news. There had also been hopes of a quick end to the war, but it was now October and the hopes had evaporated. However, his job of smuggling people out of Larissa and Greece had met with some success over the past year with Zoe working with Eva. The Resistance had kept up pressure against the Germans throughout the long hot summer, frustrating the enemy.

What pleased Father Haralambos even more was the friendship that had grown between Eva and Zoe. Even though he saw a positive change when Zoe began as Eva’s maid, there had been a major difference since July. The two collaborated on getting the identity papers to him even though on occasion they came close to being caught with the forged paperwork. They weren’t caught though, and the work continued. He also noticed Eva was less depressed and more confident. She was smiling more. He was certain that Zoe’s friendship was responsible. They are both stubborn, but God, over time, worked a miracle!

Eva had been a revelation, beautiful and softly spoken. She was so much like her mother. Father Haralambos wished he could turn back time and just elope with Daphne, as she had wanted, but he had been the proper ass and gone to ask her father for her hand.

Petros Mitsos was a war hero and the big man in Larissa. Father Haralambos couldn’t just leave with Mitsos’ daughter. Your first mistake, you idiot, he admonished himself. Mitsos was justifiably angry to find his daughter pregnant and outraged when he found out who her lover was. Father Haralambos wondered how he ever managed to stay alive through the tumult. He kept his sanity with the help of a German priest he had met in Athens, where he had fled to get away from gossip. Father Johan listened to him for hours and guided him through the mess he had created for himself.

"Ah, ancient history, old man," Father Haralambos muttered. Daphne had done a great job in raising Eva, and he was grateful to God for listening to his prayers. "Something has to go right," he added. He looked up into the bright early morning sun and squinted. He had a lot to do in church today and he was determined to get an early start. He rounded the corner to the small alleyway leading to the back entrance of the church, his mind on the matters of the day.

"Father."

Father Haralambos was startled at the sound of a voice coming from behind him. He turned and saw a man in his mid-twenties standing there, smiling at him. Father Haralambos embraced him and ruffled his dark hair.

Athanasios Klaras’ brown eyes shone with joy.

"Thanasi, my boy, so good to see you! What are you doing here?" Father Haralambos inquired.

"I was homesick," Thanasi replied with a grin.

"Have you eaten anything?"

Thanasi shook his head.

"Well, then, we have to remedy that. Come, we will go to my home and have some breakfast and we can talk."

#

In deference to Father Haralambos’ age, Thanasi walked slowly through the back alleys, avoiding the early morning patrols. He smiled at the man he loved as his father. Since his own parents had died when he was a young boy, Father Haralambos had lovingly filled the void. He had spent many a summer’s day talking to Father Haralambos and playing backgammon. In more recent times, when he found the war too hard to bear, he would close his eyes and remember those treasured moments --summer days at the river and water fights with the other orphaned boys. Father Haralambos had run the local orphanage and made it a point that the young boys learned to play, read the Bible, and be honest, upstanding members of the school.

Thanasi was brought out of his musings when Father Haralambos stopped at a small house. He opened the door and led him into a sparsely furnished room --two rickety old chairs stood against a wooden table. A large crucifix, the only decoration in the room, hung on the wall.

"It’s not much, but what is mine is yours," Father Haralambos offered.

"I have missed you so much. I can’t believe I’ve been away for so long," Thanasi said, and gave the priest another hug.

"I’ve missed you too. I long for the days when I was just a priest and my only worry was how to break up water fights between you and Giorgos!" Father Haralambos laughed.

"How is that old goat? I must go and see him and Samia."

Father Haralambos frowned. "We lost Giorgos."

Thanasi sighed and glanced up at the large crucifix. "A good man."

"We also lost Kiriakos, Antonios, and Stavros. They are at peace now. The village has been hit hard. It’s been a long three and a half years of occupation, but especially the last two years since you left. God only knows what our future will be." Father Haralambos he took out some cheese and bread and started to heat some water for tea. "So, how have you been?"

"I’ve seen better days. We’ve had some successes and a lot of losses...too many losses. We also have another problem --the British don’t want to help us. Churchill wants the King back and I say, to Hell with the King!"

"Communism isn’t the answer, my son."

"What is, Father? If we have British support, we can unite everyone and form a strong Resistance. Like the French have done. We can do it, but no one wants to sit down. Everyone is thinking about the end of the war instead of thinking about the present. We can’t form a government at the end of the war if we are all dead." Thanasi picked up the cup of tea Father Haralambos had put in front of him and took a sip. "Our government can’t organize a street parade, let alone this war. The King is happy and we are dying. Mark my words, Father, there will be a civil war in Greece after the krauts have been defeated. We stop one war and we begin another." His words were followed by a big sigh.

"Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that."

"There will be a civil war in Greece. It is a certainty."

"A civil war?" Father Haralambos repeated. "So that’s the answer? More Greeks dying."

"I don’t know what the answer is. We get rid of the Germans and then what? We get the King back? That loser? He sits there waiting for us to do all the dirty work."

"And the answer is Communism?"

"I don’t know, but the monarchy hasn’t worked. Maybe Communism will work. But we have a more pressing problem. I was in Thessaloniki last week. A trainload of supplies and Germans are on a train that will be crossing the Gorgopotamos gorge and it will also be carrying human cargo."

"That railway line has been bombed so many times. Didn’t the lads blow…" Father Haralambos stopped in mid-sentence and frowned. "Human cargo?"

"Jews. They are treated like cattle and sent to their deaths. Remember those boxcars we used to send sheep in?"

Father Haralambos nodded.

"They put those poor souls in boxcars and they go to their deaths...like sheep."

"That’s what camps are for? The ones that the Germans are using out of town?"

"Yes."

Father Haralambos stared at the man in shock. "That’s inhuman. But wasn’t the line recently destroyed?"

"They blew it up and the Germans rebuilt it. We’ve played this game now quite a few times. We’re going to blow up the line and the train."

"The train? You can’t do that — all those people!"

"We have to destroy that line and the train. Either way, lives are going to be lost. But if we destroy the railway, we send a clear message to those monsters that we will not submit! We have to fight them in any way we can, regardless of the risk. What is life under Hitler’s regime anyway?"

"What about those poor souls?"

Thanasi looked at the priest. "Those people are already dead. They’re alive now, but Hitler himself has ordered their deaths. What are you suggesting? That we don’t act? We don’t try and stop them? If we allow this train to pass, then they will be using this method to transport troops who will murder thousands of our brothers and sisters. Didn’t you tell me that it’s a sin not to act when you can help a brother in need?"

"Don’t quote my own sermons back at me."

"Is it a sin not to act?"

"There must be another way. Can’t we bomb just the line, or liberate the train?"

"I wish we could. We don’t have enough men to liberate the train. If we do that, the Germans will just start shooting and the prisoners will be killed. A few may get away but---"

"Isn’t it better to let the few get away than to kill everyone?"

"Get away to where? The whole country is overrun by Germans. Where do they go? They are destined to die. The Fates have already snipped their lives short."

"You are playing God."

"If I could find a way to stop the train, I would do it in a heartbeat. We have to bomb that train. There is no other way. What do you suggest we do?"

"I don’t know the solution to this particular problem. I don’t have the wisdom of Solomon. I don’t have the answers and I don’t know what to do. If we blow up the train, how many people will be punished and killed because of it? You know they will kill fifty Greeks for every German life lost... and those poor souls---"

"If we do nothing, those on the train are destined to die," Thanasi said, looking at the distressed cleric. "As I said, I wish there was a way to liberate that train, but there isn’t. We have to blow it up."

"We’ve been trying to get some of them out of the country," Father Haralambos said quietly.

"How? How are you getting new identity papers?"

"We have help from the inside."

"Well, that works for one or two families at a time, not for hundreds of people." Thanasi looked across at Father Haralambos. "Do I know him, this person from the inside?"

The priest smiled. "Major Muller has been doing it for us. He just doesn’t know it."

More questions were left unasked, as there was a knock on the door. Thanasi quickly hid in the adjoining room as Father Haralambos went for the door.

#

"Father, why aren’t you in church?" Zoe asked as she entered and sat down, not bothering to ask permission.

"You were going to church?"

"No. I was passing by and I saw the church closed. I came to see if you were alright." Zoe looked around and noticed the two plates and cups. "Did I interrupt anything?"

"Do you want a cup of tea?" Father Haralambos asked as he held up the teapot.

"You’re not answering my question."

"One day, Zoe, your inquisitive nature is going to get you in trouble."

"That’s what Eva says." Zoe giggled. "So are you---"

The other door slowly opened and Thanasi stepped across the threshold with his gun in his hand. Zoe’s eyes widened and she leapt to her feet. "Ares!"

Father Haralambos looked at Zoe with a frown. "The god of war? You’re reading about those pagan gods far too much."

"No, Father, not that Ares --that Ares." Zoe pointed to Thanasi.

"What are you talking about, my dear child? This is my friend Thanasi."

Thanasi laughed. "Ah, the Nazis know me as Ares Velouchiotis."

"You chose to name yourself after the god of war?"

"Nice touch, don’t you think?" Thanasi chuckled. "I knew those stories on mythology you used to read to me would come in handy one day!"

"I think it’s great," Zoe chimed in as she stared at the man she considered to be a true war hero. His exploits were legendary among the local Resistance groups and made him a man wanted by the Nazis. Father Haralambos frowned at Zoe.

"Oh, Father, stop looking at me like that. We need heroes and if he calls himself Ares, why not?"

"Ares was a blood-thirsty god---"

"I hate to break this to you, but Ares never existed, remember?" Zoe said with a chuckle.

Father Haralambos ignored Zoe’s last comment. He glanced at Thanasi, who had a grin on his face and was enjoying their banter. "How did you recognize him?"

"I saw a poster of him in Captain Reinhardt’s office when he interviewed me for the job, but I also remember seeing him around before he left town to fight with the Resistance," Zoe said as she continued to look at the Resistance leader. "The poster doesn’t come close." She realized what she had said and began to blush.

"Did you know about that?" Father Haralambos asked Thanasi.

"They have a very old sketch of me. I wouldn’t worry. The Nazis love me...problem is, I don’t love them," Thanasi said with a smile and a wink at Zoe.

"What if someone saw you come into the village?"

"Don’t worry, Father. No one knows I’m here."

"You are a real hero."

Thanasi sobered up and looked at Zoe. He knelt beside her chair. "What’s your name?"

"Zoe."

He smiled. "You have a beautiful name, Zoe. I’m not a hero. I’m just doing what I have to do."

"Can I call you Thanasi?"

He nodded. "Or Ares," he smirked.

Zoe put her hand on his arm. "You give people hope."

"Don’t romanticize what I am. God gave me the opportunity to fight for the freedom of Greece. Who am I to refuse God’s request?" Thanasi asked with a wink. "Even though I don’t believe in Him."

Zoe wasn’t sure what to say. She couldn’t fault Thanasi because she didn’t believe in God either. She stood and thrust out her hand. "Thank you," she said quietly. Thanasi took her hand and held it for a long moment. His smile and the warmth of his hand flustered Zoe.

"Zoe is one our unsung heroes." Father Haralambos put his arm around Zoe’s shoulders. "She and Eva have worked together to get new identity papers."

"Is that right? You are fighting for our freedom, little sister."

"The sooner we get rid of them, the better," Zoe replied. "The Allies are taking a long time."

"It won’t be long; our liberation will come soon."

Gunfire and raised voices made all three look at each other before Zoe got up and stuck her head out of the door. She saw a squadron of soldiers running toward her and she quickly shut the door.

 

Chapter Twenty Eight

Zoe turned to face Father Haralambos and Thanasi and blocked the door with her body. The soldiers were running towards them, screaming incoherently and brandishing their rifles. They reminded Zoe of a pack of wolves chasing its prey. For a fleeting moment she imagined the worst --they were after her. Timidly she peeked outside to see what was happening. The soldiers, though, were not after her, but some poor soul who they had captured and were dragging through the narrow street.

"What are you doing?" Father Haralambos asked. "Close the door, Zoe."

"Oh no, the poor man. He’s an escaped Jew from the camp," Zoe muttered. "I have to get back or Despina will wonder where I disappeared to." She opened the door and stuck her head out to see if there were any soldiers lurking around. She waited for a few moments, and then headed out again.

Zoe rounded the corner and stopped. She watched as two motorcycles, a car bearing the flag of a general and a truck proceeded down the street. She hurriedly made her way back to Muller’s residence and watched from across the street as the general got out of his car. His aides fawned over him as they assisted him. I wonder who that tight-assed kraut is. Zoe went to the servant’s entrance of Major Muller’s quarters and entered to find that Despina was in panic mode.

"What’s going on?" Zoe asked.

"Ah, there you are! Fraulein Eva was looking for you."

"What’s going on?" Zoe persisted.

"Don’t ask so many questions."

"I wouldn’t have to ask if someone told me what was going on," Zoe muttered as she walked up the stairs and into Eva’s study.

#

"Where have you been?" Eva asked, as she heard the door open. She continued to write.

"Good morning to you, too, Fraulein Muller. I am fine, thank you, and you?" Zoe replied. She sat on the couch and bounced in place until Eva looked up.

Eva grinned. "You know, Zoe, one of these days---"

"Don’t tell me, I’ll get into trouble. Trouble is my middle name, according to Father Haralambos."

"Where were you? You were up early today."

Zoe picked some nonexistent lint off the couch. "I went to the cemetery."

"Oh."

"Today is my sixteenth birthday. So I took Mama some new flowers and filled her in on what dastardly deeds we were up to." Zoe grinned at Eva.

Eva walked around the desk with a small box in her hand. She hid it from Zoe until the last moment when she sat down on the sofa. "I know," she said and gave Zoe the white box. "Um…I wanted to give you this when you woke up but you had got up early…"

Zoe couldn’t stop grinning as she took the box and opened it. Inside, sitting on a bed of cotton, was an emerald colored opal. She looked up quizzically at Eva, who was smiling.

"October is your birth month and your birth stone is an opal."

"Wow." Zoe picked up the stone and held it to the light. "This is so beautiful. I didn’t know there was a birth stone for the month you were born in."

"There is."

"What’s your birthstone?"

"My birthstone is the garnet."

"What is a garnet?"

"It’s a gemstone. My mother gave me this ring when I turned sixteen." Eva lifted her hand to show Zoe the gold ring with an emerald colored garnet at the center.

"It’s beautiful."

"The color reminds me of your..er.." Eva stammered to a stop, took a breath and smiled. "The opal comes from one of your favorite parts of the world."

"Greece?"

Eva shook her head. "Your other favorite place. Australia."

"Really? Wow." Zoe held the stone in her hand and marveled at its beauty. "Where did you get this?"

"It was mine. My uncle Wilbur went to Australia when I was eight and brought me back some gifts. One of them was this opal. My aunt Marlene sent it to me recently to remind me of home." Eva replied. "Do you like it?"

"I love it!" Zoe squealed and leapt into Eva’s embrace and hugged her. Eva put her arms around Zoe and laughed. "Thank you," Zoe said and gave Eva a kiss on the cheek.

"You can thread it onto your chain if--" Eva stopped speaking when Zoe took the chain around her neck and undid the clasp. She threaded the opal through where it joined the heart that held her mother’s picture.

"This is beautiful, thank you," Zoe repeated and kept touching the opal, which now hung around her neck. "I don’t know when your birthday is; you have never mentioned it."

"I was born January 20, but my birthday isn’t important," Eva replied with a slight shrug and got up from the sofa.

"You will tell me one day why it’s not important."

"You won’t ever take no for an answer, will you?"

"No," Zoe replied and giggled. "If you don’t ask, you never learn. Now I have another question --why is Despina in such a state this morning?"

"General Rhimes has decided to pay us a visit," Eva replied and frowned. She didn’t like the overbearing German general. He always found it amusing to pinch her in the rear and give her a slap for good measure. She had hoped she would be able to get out of greeting him, but her father had insisted.

"Who is General Rhimes?"

"He is in charge of Thessaloniki and the surrounding districts."

"That bastard!" Zoe spat out. "Do you know about the stories with the Jews?"

Eva nodded. She had seen for herself when Muller and she had visited Thessaloniki before arriving in Larissa. "They aren’t just stories."

"You mean they are real?"

"Yes, very real. The Jews are being hunted and exterminated. When we were in Thessaloniki I saw him shoot dead a Jewish man. Just because he felt like it."

"They can’t do that! The Jews aren’t animals," Zoe protested indignantly.

"They can. A Jew is a nothing in the eyes of our Führer." Eva looked up at the portrait of Adolf Hitler in disgust.

Zoe looked distressed at the revelation.

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Always, Zoe. If I can, I will answer it."

Zoe hesitated. "Do you...I mean," she stammered, "do you hate the Jews?"

Eva looked up sharply, not anticipating that question. "How can I hate the Jews when I’m helping them?"

Zoe scratched her head. "Well…"

"Not all Germans are barbarians." Eva looked down, unable to meet Zoe’s gaze.

"I didn’t mean to hurt you," Zoe said and went over to Eva and knelt beside her chair. "I just---"

"I know what you meant. I’m sorry. I just wasn’t expecting that question. I was in the Hitler Youth, but everyone in Germany was, before the war. I don’t hate the Jews." Eva looked at Zoe and their eyes met.

"I wish this war would end." Zoe sighed.

"What are you going to do when this war does end?" Eva asked with curiosity. She had been thinking about the end of the war and what she would be doing with her life. She didn’t know what she wanted, but she knew she had found a friend in Zoe. Their friendship was going to come to an end as soon as the war ended and she was back in Germany.

Eva smiled as Zoe closed her eyes. Eva moved her hand to brush the red-gold hair that fell across Zoe’s eyes and then stopped. Just as quickly she pulled her hand back. Zoe was completely oblivious to the small war being waged within Eva.

No matter how hard she had tried, Eva couldn’t get Zoe out of her mind. The fact that she was with her every day didn’t help. She found she could talk to Zoe so easily. She was tired of being lonely but she wasn’t sure she could live through the torrent of abuse she knew would follow should her relationship with Zoe deepen. The more she longed to be with Zoe, the worse her migraines had become. She tried to fight it but found she wasn’t able to. The best course of action was to stop thinking about her, but that was difficult as well, since they were together for most of the day. She was living in her own version of hell.

Zoe opened her eyes, almost catching Eva’s fond gaze. "What will I do when the war ends?" Zoe repeated. "I want to go to Australia, create some beautiful art and I want to go back to school," she said wistfully. "I want to show the world my art."

Eva smiled. "Can I see the one you were drawing the other day?"

Zoe lowered her eyes and played with the fringe of her skirt. "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"Really?"

Eva nodded and chuckled when Zoe ran out of the room leaving her alone. Zoe rushed back into the room a few moments later with her bag and opened it. "It’s not very good," she muttered, as she handed the drawing to Eva.

Eva was very surprised to see the pencil drawing was of herself with Henry at Athena’s Bluff. They were laughing. "This is great," Eva complimented. "Have you shown Henry?"

"Yes, and he says I’ve given him a big head. He has a big head so I just draw what I see." Zoe laughed, which caused Eva to join her. "You really like it? You were so happy that day and Henry was being so goofy that I couldn’t help but draw it." Zoe sounded shy.

"It’s beautiful," Eva said.

"Just like you," Zoe replied, and blushed furiously. Eva looked at her and decided she wasn’t going to say anything; there wasn’t much to say that wouldn’t involve Eva professing her attraction to Zoe. That was a revelation best left in her dreams. "So." Zoe cleared her throat. "What do you want to do? Will you go and find your lover?"

Eva wasn’t taken aback by Zoe’s bluntness --she was now used to Zoe speaking her mind. "No, I don’t think so."

"Why?"

Eva gazed at Zoe for a long moment. "I don’t feel that way about her anymore."

"Oh, yes…the cure."

Eva wasn’t sure what to make of that almost derisive declaration. "Don’t you believe that’s possible?"

Zoe fingered the opal around her neck and stared down at the floor for some time. "We can’t change what our hearts desire."

"Our heart desires a lot of things. Some of them are not good for us. I know loving women isn’t good for me."

"Well, loving women is a sickness and you have been cured," Zoe replied and with a slight shrug.

"My heart desires Captain Reinhardt and I’ll be getting married soon."

Zoe shook her head. "You’re going to marry someone you don’t love?"

"I do love him."

"Hm, if you say so," Zoe muttered. "I don’t think you love him."

"You don’t?" Eva asked, knowing full well the question may lead to another one of Zoe’s naïve romantic views about love and marriage.

"No, I don’t. I know what you are thinking. I’m sixteen and I don’t know anything about love but my mama’s eyes could light up a room when she saw my papa. Your eyes don’t do that."

"You’re wrong," Eva replied defensively. "I love Captain Reinhardt."

"Uh huh," Zoe muttered.

Eva sighed and then looked up at the clock, grateful that she had to cut the conversation short. "I have to get ready to meet General Rhimes. Did you speak to Father Haralambos?"

"I went to find him, but he wasn’t in church."

"He wasn’t in church?"

"No, so I went to his house. I couldn’t ask him because he had a visitor."

"Is he alright?" Eva asked, grateful for the fact they weren’t discussing her upcoming marriage to Reinhardt. She was concerned for Father Haralambos. They had spent time talking, getting to know each other. She had found out he was a very gifted artist and quite a good singer. They had laughed when Father Haralambos insisted that he gave Eva his singing ability. He regaled her with his memories of a tone deaf Daphne. They had spent some time wiping the tears from their eyes as he shared memories of her mother. Memories she would treasure all her life. The times had been growing shorter and fewer with the watch of Muller and Reinhardt. Eva was happy that Zoe had been making most of the recent trips to the church to pass papers or information to the Father.

"Oh yes, he was fine; he just had a visitor," Zoe said with a grin.

Part 7

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