Chapter Twenty Nine
"So, dear friend, what brings you to my backwater?" Muller asked as he handed Rhimes some wine.
Erik Rhimes was a big, rotund man. His uniform was stretched tight across his stomach and the buttons on his jacket appeared to want to escape. As he sat, he opened the collar of his uniform and exhaled. "Ah, that’s better." He sipped his wine. "I came to warn you."
"You came all the way here to warn me? Don’t tell me we have vermin?" Muller asked.
Rhimes’ booming belly-laugh erupted and Muller joined him. "No, no, no. You are going to get a visitor soon to your little backwater."
"His name is Ares."
"The god of war is paying me a visit?" Muller chuckled. "These Greeks are so inventive. Lousy fighters, but inventive."
"Indeed. I must say that policy of fifty Greeks for one German does prove to be an excellent deterrent. I have to remember to thank General Kiefer for that idea. A stroke of genius. As I was saying, Ares Velouchiotis is coming here."
"To blow up the line and---"
"Again? Damn it, Erik, that line has been blown up so many times. I’m getting tired of telling my men to rebuild it!"
"They want to blow up the train as well."
"But they will be killing the Jews... I guess they will be saving us some work." They both laughed at Muller’s joke. "Still, I don’t understand why he wants to blow up the train."
"Well, according to our informant, to teach us a lesson."
"If it’s a lesson they want, then I’ll be the one to teach it. Give me the men and I’ll take care of every last one of them."
"No. We’re going to do something very different. I want you to put a prominent member of this little backwater on that train."
"Prominent member? How will that stop them from blowing it up?"
The door opened and Eva walked in. She had pulled her long, dark hair into a pony tail and wore an elegant suit that matched her eyes.
"Ah, Eva! How wonderful to see you." Rhimes got up and kissed Eva and then pinched her on the behind and gave her a good slap.
"Hello, General," Eva said with a forced smile.
"What is this I hear that you’re getting married to Captain Reinhardt? I’m in the mood to dance. When is the happy day?"
"Very soon, sir. Of course you’re invited."
"I look forward to it," Rhimes replied and motioned for her to join him on the couch. "I was just telling your father how the Resistance is going to blow up a train."
"Again?" Eva asked.
"Indeed. I think the Greeks believe in blowing something up until it doesn’t exist!" Rhimes smirked. He turned to Muller and repeated his previous order. "I want you to put a prominent member of this town on that train."
"So they won’t blow up the train?" Eva asked.
"You’ve got it. They won’t blow it up if some high and mighty local is on board. Isn’t that just a brilliant idea?"
Muller grinned. "I take it you have someone in mind?"
"I do. I have found that the most prominent member of the community is the local priest. I want your priest on that train."
Eva felt her chest constrict at the thought of that brave, innocent man being used as bait. In the time after finding out that Father Haralambos, the kind, gentle priest, was in fact her real father, Eva’s respect had turned to love. He was everything Hans Muller could never be. When he spoke to her it was as if everything else was secondary. When she confessed her inner most thoughts to him, he listened. He didn’t judge her, didn’t condemn her or try to change her. Where she was expecting hate, she found love. Rejection was replaced with acceptance. The thought that Father Haralambos, her father, would be ripped away from her life again was something she couldn’t accept. I have to do something. Not again.
"Ah, Father Haralambos. You know him well, don’t you, Eva?" Rhimes asked.
"He is a very good man, General. Isn’t there another way?"
"I didn’t know you cared so much about these Greeks." Rhimes scowled at her. "We are at war, Eva. Even the local priest can kill you if given half a chance."
"My Eva is deeply religious. I’ve told her to be careful when she goes down to that church. Last year, in fact, an old woman used an opportunity while she was there to hit you," Muller said as he held his wine ready to drink and watched Eva over the rim of the glass. "I thought about making an example of her and having her shot, but I decided not to at the time. Maybe I should do it now that General Rhimes is in town. What do you think, Eva?"
"She was angry, Father, she---"
"I’m not going to waste a bullet on her." Muller chuckled and waggled his finger at Eva. "Although I am concerned that you continue to take risks each time you leave this house. You are also getting too close to that priest. Getting close to that man is not a good idea."
Eva nodded. She knew Muller was keeping a watch on her movements. Ever since Kristallnacht her father had made certain he knew who she was seeing and when. Freedom, that’s what she craved, and yet Zoe’s words echoed in her mind. Australia was sounding like a perfect place, if only she survived the war.
"They can easily turn and kill you where you sleep. I wouldn’t trust that maid either. Spending time with them is dangerous. They fill your young mind with ideas that are contrary to what we hold in our hearts," Rhimes said as he pulled out some papers from his briefcase. "I’m sure your Father Haralambos is a God-fearing man, but he is a Greek. He is prominent in the community and he is perfect for what I have in mind."
"I will call him in tomorrow," Muller said, writing a note to himself.
"There was another matter I had to discuss with you." Rhimes handed the papers over to Muller.
"Identity papers?" Muller asked.
"Do you see anything strange about them?"
"Well, we found these on two of the Resistance fighters. They appear to have originated from here."
"Did you ask them?"
"Unfortunately, we killed them before asking questions. They are good forgeries. Excellent in fact. Have you seen these before?" Rhimes asked Muller again, who was studying them.
"Not that I would remember. Not unless Captain Reinhardt signed them on my behalf, but that’s my signature. I don’t understand it."
"Well, then you have a forger in your little backwater. A minor problem, but an annoying one. If we hadn’t shot those two, you would never have known about this."
Eva tried to keep calm and disinterested in the conversation. The identity papers she and Father Haralambos created were flawless, or so they thought. She had to get word to him and quickly, and then get him to safety. She barely heard the two men talking. Her thoughts were on Father Haralambos and the dire predicament he was going to be in shortly.
Eva was brought out of her thoughts when Muller and Rhimes began to discuss the state of the war. She had heard that the Allies had landed in Normandy during the summer, but from all accounts she was led to believe that the Reich was beating back the Allied advance. She had hoped at the time that it was the propaganda machine in action again.
"So we’ve lost Paris?" Muller exclaimed. "When did this happen?"
"August," Rhimes said dejectedly.
"You’re telling me that we lost Paris in August? Damn it! Why didn’t anyone tell us sooner?"
"I think they had a lot more concerns on their minds, old friend, than telling us about Paris. We lost Bucharest, the Russian bastards have overrun Estonia, and the Americans...oh, dear God, the Americans. We are fighting on too many fronts."
Muller and Rhimes sat smoking cigars, which filled the room with smoke. Eva found the smell comforting in an odd kind of way and it reminded her of home and her grandfather.
"We are going to lose the war," Rhimes said and shook his head slowly as he watched the smoke rise from his cigar.
"Never! I don’t believe that. We’ve had some losses but---"
"Hans, the war is going badly. Very badly. If we are lucky, we will salvage some sort of agreement. The Russians are mauling us. Barbaric people."
"What are we going to do here?"
Rhimes pulled a piece of paper from his uniform pocket and gave it to Muller.
Muller’s eyebrows rose into his hairline as he read the document "That’s why the train is important?" He queried.
"Yes. General Kiefer and I are organizing a slow withdrawal of troops from Athens. We are leaving only a few there. Our Jewish problem will be eliminated. The Final Solution."
"Maybe we were given wrong information---"
"The Americans have crossed into the Fatherland."
Both Muller and Eva gasped, although not for the same reasons.
"When?" Muller whispered. "Are you sure?"
"I wish I could say I was wrong, but I’m not wrong. On September 13 they marched into Germany," Rhimes said quietly.
Getting up from his chair, Muller swore and began pacing around the room.
"Excuse me, Father, General Rhimes," Eva said as she rose from her chair. "I see that you have important matters to discuss, so I will leave you."
"Yes. Yes," Muller replied absently.
Eva walked out of the office, her thoughts jumbled as the good news was replaced with the more pressing problem of getting Father Haralambos out of Greece. She walked into the kitchen, where Despina was busy preparing the noon meal. "Where is Zoe?"
"That child will be the death of me!" Despina complained exasperatedly as she pushed back her hair from her eyes.
"Do you know where she is?" Eva asked again, becoming annoyed.
"No. She ran out of here like the devil was after her and, with that child, he probably was."
Eva thanked Despina and walked up to her room to put on her cloak and hurriedly left the house, leaving her guards behind. She would have to go and tell Father Haralambos herself. She couldn’t delay it any longer.
Light rain had begun to fall as Zoe headed out of the house. Despina’s words still echoed in her ears while she tried to avoid any patrols. The weather had changed so dramatically that she wondered if the weather and the state of the war matched. She shook her head as she made her way to Father Haralambos’ house. Avoiding the puddles that were beginning to form, she walked up to the door and tapped lightly. Adjusting her collar to keep the rain out, she impatiently wondered why Father Haralambos was so slow in answering.
"Is everything alright?" Father Haralambos asked when he finally opened the door.
"Well, we have General Rhimes here," Zoe stated as she entered through the open doorway.
Thanasi entered the room again when Father Haralambos closed the door. "Big fat pig?"
Zoe giggled at the description. He did look like an overstuffed pig. "That’s him. Big fat pig had a meeting with Muller. I don’t know why, but Eva was with them."
"Who is Eva?" Thanasi asked as he leaned on the table.
Zoe glanced at Father Haralambos before answering. "Eva is Major Muller’s daughter."
"And this Eva is important?" Thanasi continued.
"She is very important," Zoe exclaimed. She didn’t miss the surprised look on Father Haralambos’ face which quickly turned into a satisfied smile.
"The important question is, why is Rhimes here?" Father Haralambos asked Thanasi.
"I wish we had a way of finding out."
"We do," Father Haralambos stated. "Eva."
"I’m now confused. How is she going to help you?"
"She is our contact."
Thanasi stared incredulously at the priest. "She is your contact?" Father Haralambos nodded. "Dear God, man. Do you realize what you have done?" Thanasi threw up his hands in frustration. "And I suppose it was her idea to help you? Right?"
"She did volunteer."
"Great. This is just great! She has set you up, Father."
"You don’t understand---"
"What’s there to understand? You have been duped! I bet all those people you have helped are now dead. You don’t honestly believe this woman came to help you?"
"You need to stop and listen. You’re getting ahead of yourself. This is not like you. You don’t panic. What’s the matter?"
"You don’t understand." Thanasi sighed. "Does she know I’m here?"
"No, I only told her that Father Haralambos had a visitor."
"Good," Thanasi said, running his hand through his hair. "We can get you away. When you play with vipers, you get bitten. I’m not going to allow Father Haralambos to die because of this Eva," Thanasi spat out.
"I know what it means to live with vipers," Zoe retorted. "I don’t want him to die either, but Eva is as honest as the day is long. She is no more a spy for the Germans than you are. She can’t help it if her stepfather is a kraut." Zoe stopped when she realized what she had blurted out.
"What? Stepfather? What in God’s name are you prattling about?"
Father Haralambos gave Zoe an exasperated look. "Thanasi, you need to sit and calm down. Stop getting so excited. You’re going to get a nosebleed."
"Don’t ‘but Father’ me, young man. I know what I’m doing."
"You don’t! You don’t know the first thing about the Resistance. You are a priest."
Zoe snorted at Thanasi’s statement. "I think you don’t know what is going on here in Larissa."
Thanasi scowled at her but Zoe ignored it. "You two, behave."
"You don’t understand. I can’t let those pigs get you. You are responsible for who I am. I’m not going to sit by and watch them kill you."
"Who said they will kill me, my son?" Father Haralambos asked.
"I am saying it!" All three jerked their heads towards the door where Eva had just entered. Thanasi immediately cocked his gun, ready to protect the priest.
"I wouldn’t fire that gun --they jam with her around," Zoe muttered more to herself thank to Thanasi.
"Eva, what are you saying?" Father asked.
"Eva? That’s Eva? Stand aside, Father, she means to kill you," Thanasi demanded.
"Of course I don’t! What gave you that idea?" Eva retorted, but that only caused Thanasi to become bolder and more determined.
"Oh, put that away," Father Haralambos said. He grabbed the gun from a very startled Thanasi and secured it in the chapel’s offering box that had been on the table. Zoe looked at Eva, who had a very confused look on her face. "You, SIT," Father Haralambos commanded and Thanasi slumped into a chair. "And you," he leveled his gaze on Zoe, "stop smirking and behave yourself." Zoe slapped her hand over her mouth, trying to comply. "And you, what are you talking about?" He directed his question at Eva.
"Is Henry outside?" Zoe asked Eva, who shook her head. "Oh Eva! You know how he gets when you leave him behind."
"Who is Henry?"
"That doesn’t matter," Father Haralambos interrupted. "Eva, Zoe said something about General Rhimes being here?"
"Well, it seems they found some of the identity papers."
"I can’t believe you are trusting this kraut."
"Who are you?" Eva asked the man glaring at her.
"Athanasios Velouchiotis," Zoe said, with a laugh. "Ares to the Germans."
"THE Athanasios Velouchiotis?" Eva asked.
"You know me?" Thanasi said with some trepidation.
Eva nodded. "I know of you," she replied.
"Eva, what’s the problem with the identity papers?"
Eva looked at Zoe and then back at Father Haralambos. "We have two problems actually. The first is that they shot two of our couriers. They had the papers with them."
"Those poor souls. May they rest in peace," Father Haralambos said, crossing himself. "But they can’t link those back to us." He sat down across the table from Eva.
"Eventually they will find out who forged them."
"True." Father Haralambos scratched his bearded chin and sighed. "And what’s our other problem?"
"There will be a train passing through here on its way from Athens to Thessaloniki, carrying troops. They are pulling out of Athens."
Two stunned faces looked back at Eva; Thanasi merely scowled at her. "You mean they are actually pulling back?"
"Yes, I heard General Rhimes telling my father that they are slowly withdrawing troops because the Allies have taken Paris and they have crossed into Germany."
"Taken Paris? If they are in France, that means we are going to be liberated soon." Zoe’s face split into a huge smile. "Our liberation is soon!"
"Hopefully soon, little sister, hopefully soon," Thanasi said with a reassuring smile.
"When is the train going to get here?" Father Haralambos asked.
"In a few days. It is how I understood it and they said something about The Final Solution---"
"The Jews...they are moving out the remaining Jews from Athens and all the way back to Germany. That has to be it," Thanasi exclaimed.
"They think the Resistance is going to blow up the train and the line."
"They know?" Thanasi asked.
"It seems so," Father Haralambos answered. "This is now a problem for us."
"They want you to be on that train, Father. If you are on it, the Resistance will think twice about blowing it up."
Shock registered on Zoe’s face, while Father Haralambos and Thanasi looked at each other. "You can’t go on that train!" Zoe said angrily.
"If we blow up that train, many will die but---" Thanasi said quietly.
"What utter rot! Fifty Greeks will die if you do blow it up. And what about the Jews?" Zoe spat out. "Father Haralambos is not bait. He is a living, breathing, kind man who you want to kill."
"Zoe, calm down," Eva said placing her hand on Zoe’s shoulder. "That’s not going to happen." She looked at the priest. "She’s right."
"No, she’s wrong," Father Haralambos said. The three of them looked at the priest in shock.
"Have you been drinking?" Zoe asked angrily.
"Zoe!" Eva swatted Zoe on the arm.
"Will you three please calm down? If I don’t go on the train, then the Germans will know I’m in the Resistance, good people will die and the line will be used to move the Germans out."
"A good man will die that doesn’t need to die," Eva said. Father Haralambos stood and put his arm around her shoulders. "For everything there is a reason," he said quietly. "I’m going because it’s the right thing to do," he said, echoing Eva’s own words.
"Not when I’ve just found you," Eva said and hugged him.
Thanasi frowned. "We will find a way."
Father Haralambos exhaled loudly. "What part don’t you understand? If I don’t go on the train, Greeks die, Jews die, and I die for Resistance activities. If I do go on the train, Greeks don’t die, Eva is not implicated and---"
"And you still die, the Jews will die and I couldn’t give a damn about the krauts! I hope they burn in Hell!" Zoe’s voice rose along with her anger with the frustration she was feeling at being unable to see a solution to this situation that did not include Father Haralambos’ death.
"Either way I die."
"I don’t want you to die," Zoe said quietly.
"We all die sometime, my child," Father Haralambos reiterated, just as quietly.
"How can you be so final about this?" Eva asked, suppressing her tears.
Father Haralambos looked at Eva, but he didn’t answer.
"Father," Eva whispered. "Oh, Father..."
"Don’t worry, Eva, everything will be all right."
"I-I want to talk to you more about this, but I have to get back to the house. They will be wondering where I have gone," Eva said, burying her head in Father Haralambos’ robe. He held her closer until finally she broke away and walked to the door.
"So, you’ve made up your mind then?" Thanasi asked.
"I have to do what is best," the priest replied, still holding the sobbing Zoe.
"I won’t let you," Zoe said, wiping away her tears. "Even if I have to kill every last German myself, you are not going to die."
"Can’t you see that the train will take you out of Greece? You may end up where the Jews are headed. You will die, and damn it, I’m not going to allow that!" Thanasi yelled.
"It is for the best. The Resistance will blow up the train. We can’t allow any more people to be sent to their deaths on that line."
"Please, see reason. I wanted that train blown to kingdom come, but not with you on it. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing I caused your death. Don’t you understand?" Thanasi pleaded with Father Haralambos.
"Sometimes the burden of leading is very difficult. We all make decisions that are too hard to bear. This is your torture stake, my son. I have to do what is right."
"Father, please, listen to me!" Thanasi begged. "The Resistance will blow up that train and I can’t stop it."
"No!" Zoe screamed at him and ran out of the house into the steady rain.
Zoe ran. She ran until her heart pounded and her lungs ached for air. She didn’t know for how long and she didn’t care --she just had to run until she could run no longer. Exhaustion finally slowed her down enough to bring her to a stop in front of the cemetery. Realizing where she was, she plodded through the mud to her mother’s grave.
"Oh, Mama!" Zoe cried and collapsed to the ground, sobbing. "Why is everyone leaving me?" She asked as she tried to understand what was happening. Everyone she loved was gone, and now the man who was like a father to her was also going to die.
She wiped away the tears. "This isn’t fair. Eva recently found her real papa, the Germans are leaving, and now this. It’s not fair."
Zoe looked to the heavens. "Dear God, I know I don’t speak to you much and I know you don’t have to listen, but please, I beg you...please look after Father Haralambos. I know if you let him, he will organize Heaven for you." She wiped her eyes again.
"He is a good man and I love him so much." Her voice broke as she looked down at the sodden ground. "I don’t have to tell you what he has done, how many people he has saved. Please make his death as painless as possible. Don’t let him suffer. I can’t bear to think of him in pain and alone."
Zoe rocked back and forth in the mud as the rain continued to fall on her forlorn figure. She wasn’t sure exactly how long she sat there in the mud, but eventually she realized that the pelting rain had turned to drizzle and the sun had gone down.
She was slowly making her way back to the house when she heard a soldier command her to stop. Zoe sighed and turned. She grimaced when she found herself face to face with the corporal who had manhandled her a few weeks previously.
"So Fraulein, we meet again." The corporal grinned.
Zoe gave him a wry grin in return. "So it would seem."
"Where are you going?" He inquired.
"To Major Muller’s residence," Zoe responded. She was wet, cold and emotionally spent. She just didn’t have any energy left.
"What are you doing out here at this time? Don’t you know about the curfew?"
"Yes, sir, I do and I’m sorry," Zoe said quietly.
The soldier looked surprised. Taken aback, he just told her to get going.
Passing the church, Zoe looked up and frowned when she saw that the door was open. She quickly ran up the steps.
The church was dark, the only light coming from the candles burning by the altar. Zoe stopped in the doorway when she noticed that Eva was kneeling in prayer. Not wanting to interrupt her, she stood by a column and waited.
Eva looked up at the image of the crucified Christ. "Lord, I can’t believe that it is Your will to let Father Haralambos drink from this bitter cup." Her voice broke and she faltered. She wiped away the tears. "He’s my father, Lord...I know I was brought here to find him and I know there is a reason that things happen the way they do, but I can’t see how this will benefit anyone. Please, don’t let him die. He has been my one saving grace in this nightmare." She choked on her words.
Tears welled up in Zoe’s eyes as well, her heart going out to Eva.
"Eva…" Zoe called out as she walked down the aisle and knelt beside Eva and took her hand. "Don’t’ cry." She tenderly wiped a tear from Eva’s cheek.
"You’re wet." Eva looked down at the disheveled young woman.
"I am." Zoe shrugged. "I didn’t think God would mind."
Father Haralambos hurriedly made his way to the church. He was going to make certain there was nothing left behind that could link Eva to the Resistance. He was sure he didn’t have anything in his office which would incriminate her, but he wanted to double-check. Thanasi had warned him about such things before he left, and about the patrols that would stop him if he were out after dark because of the curfew that was in place. He wondered where Thanasi had disappeared to, but knew there was no use in speculating. Still, it didn’t keep him from worrying about the lad.
Thanasi, God bless him. He means well but he is just too over protective. Besides, he had to make sure things were in order before tomorrow. It was just a short distance from the house to the church. What could happen? Father Haralambos rounded the corner and stopped dead in his tracks. The church doors were slightly ajar and his heart beat faster hoping that the Germans were not inside the office. He looked around and didn’t see any German presence. He was sure that he had told Sister Maria to close the doors when she had finished preparing for Sunday’s service. He shook his head and wearily climbed the steps.
He made his way into the church and stopped. Before the altar, two figures were kneeling, their heads covered. From their silhouettes, he was quite certain he knew who they were. He smiled. "Thank you, Father," he said quietly and crossed himself. He then noticed the trail of mud from the entrance to the altar, shook his head, and made his way out through the front door of the church. He would head into his office from around back.
Zoe and Eva rose and slowly made their way out of the church. Eva stopped and saw the muddy trail. "Do you always like to play in the mud?" She teased, making an attempt to get a grin out of Zoe.
"Only when it rains," Zoe replied. They smiled at each other and closed the church doors. They didn’t encounter any patrols on the way back home. They stopped and watched as the car carrying General Rhimes sped off, and then made their way around the house and into the kitchen.
"Oh, my God!" Despina cried out as Zoe tramped the mud from her boots onto the clean kitchen floor. Zoe stood there with a sheepish grin and shrugged. "Get out of here, now! You are---" Despina yelled, but stopped in mid-sentence when she saw Eva follow Zoe inside. "Fraulein Muller, I’m sorry..."
"Sorry." Zoe took off her muddy shoes and threw them out of the kitchen door onto the rear steps. Her once white socks were now a mucky brown color.
A moment later Henry entered the kitchen and stood just inside the doorway glaring at Eva.
"Don’t start," Eva said before her guard had a chance to speak. "I’m fine, just went for a stroll."
Henry shook his head and with a sigh, he turned and walked out of the kitchen.
"Get some hot water prepared for a bath, Despina," Eva requested, ignoring the glare Despina was giving Zoe as they both trudged up the stairs.
Eva ushered Zoe into her bedroom, determined to get the wet and muddy clothes off her before she developed pneumonia. Placing Zoe on the bed as if she were a child, Eva removed her socks and tossed them aside. "What were you doing? Did you run to the next village in the rain?" She asked as she unbuttoned Zoe’s skirt and watched it fall around her bare feet. "I don’t want you to get sick," she scolded.
Zoe tried to unbutton her blouse, but Eva pushed her hand away. "We can’t have you catching a cold after..." She looked up for the first time and saw the sheepish grin on Zoe’s face, "...all, uh, can we?" Not sure how to interpret that expression, Eva stepped to the side and retrieved a blanket.
"This is very romantic, isn’t it?" Zoe’s sense of ironic absurdity was clearly showing. "Somehow I didn’t think it would be quite like this --me being wet, cold and covered in mud, with Despina yelling at me..." Zoe teased as she tossed her blouse to the floor.
Eva smiled. "You were thinking about it...about me?" She asked, placing the blanket around Zoe’s shoulders.
Zoe blushed and looked away. Eva cupped Zoe’s face and turned it towards her. "You were thinking about me?" She repeated.
"You’re not a boy," Zoe replied with a tiny shrug.
"No, I can’t say that I am."
"That’s good because—" Zoe stopped and looked up into Eva’s sparking blue eyes. "—I don’t like boys."
"Oh," Eva whispered. She had resisted her feelings for so long. She had resisted giving into what her heart desired, but her mind rebelled again. Even now she felt the tendrils of fear envelop her mind, but she tried to push them aside. She would pay for what she was about to do but she was going to do it. She didn’t want to get involved with anyone. She had cut herself off and maintained an icy exterior. She had built walls around her heart to prevent anyone from hurting her again and to protect herself from her father. She had managed to stay remote and aloof until she had met this young woman. Zoe had walked in and blithely disassembled the walls she had worked so hard to build. The last few months had been ones of constant pain originating from her thoughts and desires.
Eva and Zoe suddenly found themselves surrounded by the loving arms of the other. Very comfortable with the newfound intimacy, they held on to each other a few moments longer.
"I’ve never been interested in anyone before," Zoe said softly. "Not that way."
"Well, that’s...what did you say?" Eva asked as she realized what Zoe had just said. Eva had thought that she would never hear those words again, had not dared to hope she would.
"I’ve fallen in Heavy Like for you," Zoe said softly but distinctly, looking into Eva’s eyes. "I’ve never felt for anyone the way I feel about you."
"Maybe we..." Eva started hesitantly. She wanted to believe what Zoe was telling her, wanted so much to feel that finally she could love someone. A dull ache was beginning to stir within but she pushed her discomfort away.
"I’m in heavy like for you. I just admitted to you I was new at this and, well, you are just going to have to be patient with me."
"You surprise me," Eva said quietly as she gazed at Zoe, her chestnut hair matted with mud but her eyes shining brightly. Those eyes looked at Eva with emotions that she thought she would never again see directed at her.
"Oh? How so?" Zoe asked.
"When I told you about my lover and then about my uncle..." Eva said slowly. Now, she had to make certain that Zoe knew where they were headed. She owed her that much.
"You’re wondering why I didn’t go running out the door, is that it?"
"Why should I run out? You were hurting and you needed a friend so badly," Zoe reminded her quietly, looking into Eva’s eyes.
"You are special, very special, to me," Eva quietly said. Cupping Zoe’s face in her hands, she slowly leaned over and pressed her lips to Zoe’s. Gently at first, to explore the sweetness of Zoe. Eva slowly became more assertive as she could feel the excited response from Zoe and sought to quench her desire.
"Oh boy!" Zoe whispered as they parted.
"Good or bad?" Eva asked with a bit of trepidation.
"Oh, good! Better than good!" Zoe exclaimed as they shared another kiss. "Much better than when Tasos kissed me."
Eva looked at Zoe and her brows furrowed together, which caused Zoe to start laughing.
"Are you jealous, Fraulein Muller?" Zoe asked with a grin. "You should stop frowning like that," she said and playfully smoothed the furrow between Eva’s eyes.
"No...I mean...yes...well...when did you kiss Tasos?"
"Let’s see now." Zoe smiled. "I was ten years old and it happened at the back of the chicken coop. Very sloppy kissing." She laughed. "My brother Michael came out and stopped us. He told me that if I kissed a boy I would have a baby."
They both laughed as Zoe continued. "Which I believed, and so I never kissed another one again."
Eva looked down at her own tall frame. "Well, I’m not a boy, so I can’t get you pregnant."
Zoe looked Eva up and down. "You certainly are not a boy."
"I thought you said you didn’t like boys?"
"I kissed him to see what it was like. I didn’t like it." Zoe grinned. "Let me tell you something, Fraulein Muller. You definitely don’t kiss like Tasos."
They looked at each other. Eva frowned. "You know this can be very dangerous for you." The thought of her father laying a hand on Zoe made her heart ache. She could withstand her ‘treatments’ again if she had to, but could not bear for Zoe to suffer because of her.
"For me? What about you?" Zoe asked, wrapping her blanket around Eva.
"He will hurt you if he finds out. I don’t want to see you going through what I’ve been through. You are a very gentle soul, and if it means we can’t take this further---"
"And you are a hard bitten Nazi, right? How do you feel about me?"
"I love you, but because I love you, I don’t want to put you in danger. I don’t want to see you hurting."
Zoe sighed. She reached up and tenderly caressed Eva’s cheek. "You may not have noticed this, but we are in a war. I’m in danger just walking down the street. I can get shot for nothing more than looking at a soldier the wrong way."
"Your father is a psychotic man, who hurt you physically and mentally for loving someone. Father Haralambos told me that when we find love, we accept it. We don’t question it, and we don’t deny it."
"Father Haralambos said that?" Eva asked as her hand went to her temples and massaged them when the throbbing headache began. Her knees started to tremble and she felt a heavy weight bear down on her but she was determined to withstand it.
"Yes, he did. I don’t think he was talking about us, but I do know how I feel about you. My brother Michael described it once as Heavy Like when he was talking about his newest girlfriend." Zoe chuckled. "He said, ‘Zoe, there are three stages when you know it’s right: Like, Heavy Like and Deep Love.’ I’m in the second stage. Heavy Like. When I get to stage three you can shoot me, because I’ll be useless. So I’m in stage two and I think there isn’t any cure to stop it from going to level three." She grinned at Eva. "I don’t want to be cured."
What happened next caught Zoe completely by surprise as Eva went to kiss her but almost passed out in her arms. Zoe grabbed hold of her as they both sank to the floor. She lost the blanket and concentrated on Eva, who was sitting on the floor with her long legs brought up to her chest and her head resting on her knees.
"You’re not well, I knew that rain---"
"It’s not that," Eva exclaimed. "Oh, god," she moaned.
Zoe knew what was coming and she quickly looked around the room, spotted the dustbin and emptied it out before she brought it to Eva. Just as she did so, Eva heaved into the bucket. Zoe could do nothing but hold her, unsure of why Eva had been violently ill for the last few months.
"Go, have your bath," Eva said hoarsely as she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
"I can’t leave you like this."
"Please go, Zoe."
Zoe didn’t want to leave but she thought Eva didn’t want to be seen being sick --that wasn’t her way. "Alright, but I’ll be quick."
"Uh huh," Eva’s response could barely be heard as she had her head resting on her knees.
Zoe hesitated for a long moment before she leaned in and kissed Eva’s dark head.
"Oh, god," Eva moaned. She let go of her knees and lay down on the floor. She curled into a fetal position and started to sob. Zoe picked up the blanket and left the room.
Chapter Thirty One
It was cold, dark and airless. Eva took a deep breath and regretted it as her chest heaved and spasmed. She lay in the hospital bed unable to turn. She had been transferred to the hospital as soon as her back started to heal. This prison had been her world for over three months. She didn’t know whether it was night or day, and after a point, she didn’t care.
Eva’s only means of telling time was by the visits of the nurses. If she knew their names, she didn’t remember them. One particular nurse seemed to delight in injecting her with drugs that made her so sick she would retch until the pains in her chest and stomach made her cry out.
Her nurse told her that a friend was going to visit, but she wasn’t told much else. For the first time in a long time, Eva looked forward to something. She was excited at the possibility that it might be a school friend. Logic didn’t enter her mind to inform her anyone coming here wouldn’t be doing so for a friendly visit.
The door opened once again and Eva flinched from the stark glare as the light was turned on and illuminated the small room.
Men in white coats; she didn’t know their names and didn’t care. Hands grabbed her, so many hands of men in white. She fought back but she couldn’t stop them from strapping her down. Her arms and legs were tied. She tried to move but it was impossible. She cried out in fear and pain but no one cared.
Eva opened her eyes to see her uncle Dieter at the head. He placed his hand on her head and whispered something to her that she could not hear --the only sound she heard was the sound of her heart. It was beating so fast, she thought it would explode out of her chest. A thick black strap kept her head immobile, a thick short bar in her mouth, and then the pain as the current went through her body like fire.
"Noooooooooooo!" Eva screamed and struggled to sit upright. The blankets were wound around her, which caused her to thrash around, believing she was being held down. Her breath came in shallow gasps as she woke from the recurring nightmare. The door was flung open and Zoe ran inside and skidded to a stop when she found Eva doubled over, hyperventilating.
"Hey, it’s okay." Zoe gently placed her arm around Eva’s heaving shoulders. "Breathe into this; it works for me."
Eva breathed in and out of the pillowcase, Zoe’s reassuring hand across her back. Zoe held her for what seemed an eternity but was actually only a few minutes.
Eva put the pillowcase on the floor and slumped back down to realize Zoe was holding her tightly. She turned her head and found tears running down Zoe’s face.
"It’s not as if you wanted to do that," Zoe replied as she wiped a tear that tracked down her face. They turned to find Henry at the door. He was wearing his uniform trousers and nothing else. He entered the room without asking and sat on the bed.
"Are you two having a party?" Henry light-heartedly asked as his gaze rested on Eva’s distraught face.
"Nothing to worry about, Henry," Eva replied quietly as she reached out and took his hand.
"I’m going to go down to the kitchen—"
"No, don’t. You can go to sleep."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, it’s Zoe’s turn for Crazy Eva."
Henry shook his head as he rose. He leaned over to his charge and kissed her on the forehead. "Get some sleep, not so crazy Eva."
"He loves you so much."
"He is my best friend," Eva responded softly, pulling the blanket across her shoulders. She turned and gazed at Zoe, who was sitting meters from her.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Zoe asked as she reached to touch Eva. She pulled back when Eva shook her head.
"I..Zoe, don’t touch me."
Zoe frowned. She looked around the room and found a chair to the side. She pulled the chair and sat at the end of the bed waiting for Eva to compose herself.
"Whatever it is, Eva, if you say it out loud, it can’t hurt you anymore.’
Eva gazed into Zoe’s earnest face. "It does, Zo, it does hurt."
"How? How can a nightmare hurt you?"
"You are going to think I’m crazy."
"No, I don’t think you are crazy."
Eva closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, the last vestiges of the nightmare so fresh in her mind. "I was a little younger than you when my mother died and my father took out his anger at me."
"Sadistic bastard. That’s when he struck you with the belt?"
"Yes, but I wish that’s all he did. I was sent to Aiden in Austria. My family owns a spa there and it also has a hospital wing," Eva quietly related. Zoe leaned forward, not touching Eva but close enough to her. "My uncle Dieter---"
"That’s the same one that sent Doctor Slutty, right?"
"Yes. He..ah." Eva stopped talking. "He had a cure for deviancy and I was his prize patient."
"What did they do to you?"
Eva blinked in the semi-darkness and didn’t say anything for a moment. "Do you know what aversion therapy is?"
"No, but I’m going to guess it’s not a good thing. You can’t say the word without flinching."
"Aversion therapy is when they try and change you from a homosexual to a heterosexual."
"A heterosexual is what I’m not," Zoe said, getting Eva to look at her for a moment before a slight smile played on her lips.
"No, you’re not a heterosexual."
"Right. So these people tried to change you? How did they do that?"
"They used electric shocks on me to change the way my brain worked. They wanted to stop how I felt about women. They did horrible things to me," Eva replied hoarsely and watched as Zoe’s face went from confusion to rage in seconds.
Eva could see Zoe’s hands were shaking and wondered if she could tell her the truth. The look on Zoe’s face was one of horror but Eva saw compassion in her eyes. If this doesn’t terrify you to leave me, then nothing will, Eva thought, all the while her gaze never left Zoe.
"I was injected with so many drugs, I didn’t know my own name half the time and the other half of the time, I didn’t care what my name was."
"Are you still taking those drugs?"
Eva shook her head. "Yes, I think so. They don’t tell me whether it’s pain medication or those drugs."
"Is that why you have been ill for the last few months? In the morning you were fine but as the day wore on, you became so angry and ill?" Zoe asked. She reached out and then remembered, so she pulled back and sat on her hands.
"It’s called aversion therapy for a reason."
"It obviously doesn’t work very well."
"It does." Eva nodded. "It works the way they intended it to work. Their treatments were to try to get me not to feel sexually aroused by women."
"They can do that?"
"Yes, they can. When I kissed you earlier…"
Zoe’s puzzled expression instantly changed to horror. "You are physically ill when you touch me?"
"Yes. It physically hurts me to touch you."
"That’s why you were throwing up earlier?"
"It’s why you’ve been sick for the last few months. You were thinking about me?" Zoe asked incredulously.
Eva nodded. "I had this dream one day that we were making love and I held you in my arms. It felt so real."
Zoe’s face creased into a smile. "You were dreaming about me? About us making love?"
Eva nodded. "Yes."
"What happened when you woke?"
"I was violently ill."
"You were burning in your own version of hell."
Zoe sighed. "Do you want us to forget what happened tonight? I will go away and ask Father H to assign someone else; I don’t want to hurt you."
"No, Zoe, I don’t want you to go away."
"But I’m hurting you."
"I chose to kiss you. It’s going to take me some time to overcome this but I will. If you leave, it would hurt more and they will win. I won’t be able to bear that pain. What I’m feeling now, it will go away."
"Are you sure it will go away?"
"Yes, in time."
"When the war is over, we will find someone to help you. We will wait until you are stronger. This Uncle Dieter is another sadistic bastard. Is that why you are so afraid of him? When I mentioned his name as being on the guest list a few months ago, your face was so pale you were almost ready to pass out. You looked terrified of him."
"I am afraid of him because if he finds out that his cure never worked, he will take me back. I’m afraid if that happens I won’t come out of Aiden alive."
"It never worked? I thought you said it did work and that’s why you are ill."
"I can’t change who I am, Zoe. I can’t change how I feel no matter how much they torture me. What they have done is make me sick if I’m aroused by a woman, thinking about you," Eva shook her head. "I made them believe that I was cured."
"Are these people stupid? How could they believe you were cured?"
"I did what I had to do to convince them."
"You did what you had to do?" Zoe asked. "That’s why you got married to Erik?"
"Yes. He didn’t know but I’m very good at faking it."
"No." Zoe shook her head. "You are a terrible liar."
"Only you can see that, Zoe," Eva replied as she reached out and touched Zoe’s knee. "You are the only one who can."
"So you lied and they believed you?"
"Blind and stupid. Does Jurgen believe you?"
Eva nodded. "Yes."
"Does your father believe you?"
Eva grimaced and shook her head. "He doesn’t believe I’m cured. Nurse Gestapo tried to convince him and then Dr. Uta came over and..well…"
"Horrible women. I hope they’re enjoying the fires of hell." Zoe sneered. "Gestapo was the one that laughed as my mama was dying."
"Yes," Zoe responded as Eva’s eyes closed. "I hope they enjoyed the ride down Athena’s Bluff."
Eva’s eyes popped open and she stared at Zoe. "What?"
Zoe stared back. "I promised to kill the woman who laughed at my mama’s death. I was sorry I had to kill that Doctor but now I’m not sorry because of what they did to you."
Eva smiled. She was overcome with the feelings she was experiencing for Zoe. "It’s been a long time since anyone cared about me."
"Well, I’m going to change that," Zoe resolutely announced.
"Are you sure you want to get involved with me?" Eva whispered, hoping for all she was worth she wasn’t going to hear the words that she dreaded.
Zoe didn’t say anything for a few moments. "I’m sure, but I’m not the one throwing up every time you see a little flesh," Zoe gently teased making Eva smile.
"I’ll kick him in the crotch and enjoy the experience." Zoe giggled.
Eva couldn’t help herself and she laughed. It felt good to laugh after experiencing the familiar nightmare that seemed to haunt her.
"I told you, Evy…" Zoe said and surprised Eva by using the diminutive form of her name. She looked up to see Eva’s huge smile. "You may not have noticed this, but we are in a war. Every day is dangerous." Zoe shrugged. "What’s one more danger?"
"This one is different."
"I know," Zoe said. "Sometimes you have to go with your heart and let it lead you."
"You’re one of a kind, Zoe," Eva replied a little hoarsely.
"The world is a safer place with only one of me," Zoe replied playfully as she fussed with Eva’s blanket. "Now, go to sleep. You can worry about this tomorrow when you’re feeling stronger."
Eva’s furrowed brow deepened as the migraine settled behind her eyes. She watched as Zoe left the room. With a sigh she realized she was going to be spending the night alone. Moments later Zoe came back into the room with her blanket, the thick rug and a pillow.
"What are you doing?"
"Sleeping on the floor --if I can’t hold you, I’m going to be as close as I can be. I’ll show these bastards that they won't win."
"God help them," Eva murmured. The last thing she saw was Zoe gazing up at her from the floor before her eyes closed.
Chapter Thirty Two
Muller sat at his desk and stared up at the ceiling. He couldn’t believe what he had heard from Rhimes. If it were anyone else who had told him about the Fatherland’s losses...well, he wouldn’t have believed them. The Americans had crossed into the Fatherland. The very thought made his stomach hurt.
"My God," Muller muttered. "My God, what a shambles." He sighed. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door, which he answered with a curt, "Come." Reinhardt entered and saluted. Muller motioned for him to sit. "Has the train arrived?" He asked.
"Yes, sir. It has three cars."
"Good. You’re probably wondering why there are soldiers on that train? No?"
"We have a problem," Muller said. "We’re pulling out of Greece."
Reinhardt’s right eyebrow twitched but he showed no outward emotion. If the situation weren’t so serious, Muller would have laughed at his second in command’s face.
"This is surprising to you?"
"I am surprised but---"
"Doesn’t matter!" Muller snapped. "The train that came in this morning is going to Thessaloniki. Men from here will join the soldiers from General Kiefer’s command. The rest will be sent via truck convoy. There will be Resistance activity to blow up the train. Bring Father Haralambos here to me. He will be on that train."
"Yes, sir. May I make a suggestion?" Muller nodded. "Why not get a hundred villagers and put them on the train? One man won’t matter much to the Resistance, even if he is the priest. They will think twice about blowing up that many of their countrymen."
Muller stared at his second in command for a long moment.
"Alright. Round up a hundred villagers to go on the train," Muller said as he picked up a pen and began to sign papers. "Bring the priest here now."
"Sir, it’s Sunday---"
Muller glared at Reinhardt. "So what? You don’t bring priests in to me on a Sunday? Is there a problem?"
"Well, go and do it then," Muller yelled.
"And so when you do a kind deed, don’t let everyone know of it --just let God know." Father Haralambos finished his sermon on letting good deeds go unnoticed. His congregation was sparse today and he sighed. Only the old women and a scattering of old men were present. The young didn’t have time for God with the war raging.
Even Eva was missing today, and that worried Father Haralambos. She was always there unless she was ill. He was sure that she had been well when he had seen her here last night. He was mildly startled when the doors to the church were opened and Reinhardt and six soldiers entered. He had expected to be taken from his home, not from the church.
"You’re a bit late for the sermon, Captain," Father Haralambos quipped, knowing full well why the captain had come to the church.
Reinhardt grimaced. "I’m not here for that. You are to come with me."
"May I ask where to?" Father Haralambos asked, hoping to postpone the inevitable.
"Major Muller wants to speak to you," Reinhardt answered and then turned to the corporal on his left. "Gather everyone here and take them down to the train."
He led the priest out of the church as the soldiers rounded up the congregation. Father Haralambos looked back and frowned. "I said I was coming with you. What have these people done to deserve this treatment?" He tried to plead with Reinhardt, but he could see he was not going to appeal to the man’s kindness.
"Don’t ask so many questions. You may not like the answers," Reinhardt answered as he walked quickly back to Muller’s residence.
Father Haralambos shuffled along, quite unconcerned at the hurried pace of Reinhardt. In fact, he deliberately slowed down.
"Come on, Father. Move!"
"Captain, I am old enough to be your father. Would you talk to him in that manner? And please, slow down."
Reinhardt stopped. An incredulous look crossed his face and then he laughed. "Come on, Father, Major Muller is waiting."
Reinhardt ushered Father Haralambos into Muller’s office, where the major sat watching them.
"Ah, Father Haralambos."
"Good day to you, Major." Father Haralambos sat down, uninvited.
Muller frowned. "You’re going on a trip," he stated, and signed some forms without looking up.
"I am? How lovely. To where?" Father Haralambos smiled.
"That doesn’t concern you at the moment."
"I’m going on a trip and you won’t tell me where? Ah, must be a German thing," Father Haralambos said as he folded his hands and rested them on his lap.
"Your lack of concern interests me. Why is that?" Muller tapped the pen on the desk and looked at the priest quizzically.
"Why am I not scared, or why am I looking forward to a trip when I don’t know where I’m going to?"
"You are not amusing, Father."
"I’m not trying to be. I’ve lived a long life and I’ve seen a lot." Father Haralambos smiled.
Muller turned to Reinhardt. "Leave us," he said. Father Haralambos met Reinhardt’s gaze for a moment before the younger man left the room.
The door closed behind the captain and Muller leaned back on his chair and looked at Father Haralambos. "What secrets do you hold?"
"I am the keeper of many secrets, most of them spiritual. I’m a simple priest."
"You’re not the simple priest you want me to believe you are."
"You mean I’m not a priest? The Archbishop will be most surprised." Father Haralambos’ eyes were still smiling, but Muller could sense a steely resolve. "It’s a lovely dance we are dancing, Major, but I’m getting older, so why don’t we say what we want to say?"
"Tell me, why does my daughter come to church so much?"
"Why do people come to church? Eva is a spiritual child."
"She is a perverted child," Muller mumbled. "I know what she has been doing."
"She has been cleansing her soul. The death of her mother caused her so much grief. I’m sure, as her father, you are aware of that. She has been in pain and she needs the solace of the Lord."
Muller watched Father Haralambos for a few moments. "What has my daughter told you about her mother’s death?"
"A child is scarred from such an experience."
Muller was startled. Father Haralambos’ eyes had turned cold and he could see hatred in them for a moment. Gone was the man of God and in his place he could see the hatred for him. The priest’s blue eyes stared at him, and that unnerved him, more than he thought it would.
"Any child who loses a parent is devastated. Eva is no different. As I said, she has found solace in the Lord."
Muller decided to let the issue drop. He was rather unsettled by what had transpired. He fussed with some papers on his desk. "You will report to Captain Reinhardt for your train trip," he ordered, not looking at Father Haralambos.
"Ah yes, my little trip. Will I have time to let the good Sisters know I will be gone for a time?"
Muller nodded. "Tomorrow you will board the train," he said, refusing to meet the priest’s eyes. "Leave," he directed, turning his chair around.
"Have a good day, Major."
Muller didn’t answer as the door closed quietly. He felt that Father Haralambos had challenged him and somehow he had lost. He shook his head.
Father Haralambos was deep in thought as he made his way through the forest, the autumn chill creeping into his bones. He reached the end of the trail and settled down to gaze out across the northern horizon.
The forest that surrounded the area appeared to be succumbing to the weather — leaves were falling, leaving shriveled, bare branches to face the coming winter. He found a secluded area overlooking the northern mountains, and watched the clouds skimming across the mountain peaks, the mountains themselves looking gray and depleted. The river, a vital resource for the war ravaged community, was a center of activity for the many local farmers, its crystal clear water and powerful currents bringing a sense of intensity and vigor to the atmosphere. The rich, opulent fields of wheat flourishing as the time for harvest neared gave an almost golden hue to the skyline. There was an eerie silence that forced his thoughts to focus on his imminent future.
He sat on the boulder and contemplated his life. He was fortunate, he thought, that he could take a moment to reflect on his life before he died. Others were not so lucky, as their lives were cut short by the violence of the war. He could find some time to organize his affairs and say goodbye to those he loved. Maybe that’s a curse and not a blessing.
He had found his only child and now to see her being taken away from him again hurt him a great deal. Eva was a spirited and deeply religious woman. He was proud of her. He didn’t think he could ask for more in a child. He smiled. When he looked at her, he could see the love of his life, Daphne, reflected in her features.
He heard a rustling sound and he turned to see Zoe coming towards him. He smiled and she promptly sat beside him.
"I thought I would find you here," Zoe said, looking out over the valley. She had seen Father Haralambos leave Muller’s residence. She had hoped to stop him before he left, but Despina held her back with some chores that needed doing, which took her some time.
"It’s quiet here," Father Haralambos said, fingering the well-read Bible in his hands. They sat in silence, Zoe playing with a stick as she watched the clouds slowly pass.
"I’m going to miss you," she said quietly.
"I’m going to miss you too."
"Don’t give God a hard time, okay? I know you want to organize everything." Zoe grinned.
Father Haralambos laughed. "I promise not to give God a hard time. I’ll tell Him you told me to behave."
"I’ve already told Him," Zoe said shyly and looked away.
"Are you speaking to Him again?"
Zoe nodded and prodded some dead leaves with the stick. "I asked Him to take care of you and told Him that you are a bossy boots." She smiled at Father Haralambos, who was laughing. She hadn’t seen him laugh so much in years. His whole face changed and it made him look younger.
"Can I ask you to do something for me?" Father Haralambos asked.
"I want you to be safe," Father Haralambos requested, as he hugged Zoe. He looked down to see tears running down her face. He kissed the top of her head and rubbed her back with his hand.
They sat like that for some time, each with their own thoughts, gazing out to the mountains. A memory surfaced as Father Haralambos smiled at the image of a very young Zoe putting her hand up eagerly to answer the question he had put to the class.
"Alright, children, what is the highest mountain in Larissa? Who can tell me?" Father Haralambos asked as he looked out at the sea of faces before him. The young children scrunched up their faces trying to think. He smiled as he watched them. A little hand shot up. Zoe’s honey colored pigtails bobbed up and down as she tried to get his attention.
"Father, the highest mountain in Larissa is Mount Olympus!" She said with conviction and sat back down.
Father Haralambos. The children looked at Zoe and laughed. She was crestfallen and began to pout.
"Now, now children. Zoe is nearly right. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and you can see it from here if you look hard enough. The highest mountain in Larissa is Mount Ossa."
"What’s so funny?" Zoe asked.
"Ah, I was just remembering a very young girl and Mount Ossa," Father Haralambos said cryptically.
Zoe looked at the mountains and smiled. "Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece."
She looked shyly at Father Haralambos. "Father, I have something to tell you."
"Yes," Zoe replied and looked away. Father Haralambos patiently waited while Zoe took her time. It wasn’t usually this hard to get her to open up to him. "Zoe?"
"Remember when you said you wanted me and Eva to be friends?"
"Well." Father Haralambos smiled. "I did ask you first not to kill her."
Zoe smiled. "Well, after you told me not to kill her."
"Yes, I remember."
"I am her friend now."
Father Haralambos bowed his head and a smile creased his weathered face. He quietly said a quick prayer of thanks. He looked back up at Zoe, who was playing with a piece of twig wedged in the rock face. "Eva is a gentle soul, and I thank God that you are her friend. Then that’s all I ever wanted."
"She loves you very much."
They sat in silence for a moment. Father Haralambos picked up his Bible and turned to Zoe. "I want to read something to you." He opened his Bible and found the passage that he wanted to read to her. "When the time comes I want you to remember this."
Father Haralambos began to read and his voice broke a little. "I am going to a better place, my child. I will not be alone. Whenever you are afraid I want you to remember what the Psalmist wrote."
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."
Father Haralambos stopped as Zoe sobbed beside him. He held her for a moment and then continued.
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." He finished and closed the Bible.
"I want you to have my Bible. Keep it with you and read it. I’m going to be keeping an eye on you." Father Haralambos handed her the black book, the corners upturned and well used.
Zoe took the Bible and held it close to her chest. She cradled it in her hands. "I love you," Zoe said and leaned against the priest.
"I love you too," Father Haralambos replied, holding Zoe in his arms. He was certain his prayers had been answered and that Zoe had come to realize that God was not to blame for the war or the terrible fate that had befallen the country. He was satisfied that his work was done. God had answered his prayers about his daughter and He answered them again about taking care of Eva.
Chapter Thirty Three
"He shouldn’t be too much longer."
Eva nodded and hoped Father Haralambos would arrive before she was going to be forced to go back to the house. A part of her wished she wouldn’t have to face him and tell him of what had happened the previous evening. Just as she was losing hope of seeing him, his unmistakable figure walked in through the front door. She smiled but tempered her greeting because of the two guards that stood just inside the doorway of the church. They had instructions not to allow Eva to leave their sight. Eva wasn’t sure if the extra measures had to do less with her security and more with Muller’s wish to keep her in his invisible prison.
"Ah, Eva. Are you alright?" Father Haralambos asked as he took her hand.
"Yes." Eva turned to her guards. "You don’t need to come with me."
"We have our---"
"I said you don’t need to come with me. Confessions are supposed to be secret." She smiled when the guards nodded and went back to looking bored.
Father Haralambos ushered Eva into his office. "Sit, sit." He took off his black cleric’s coat and hung it by the door. "How are you today?"
"Uh...we...I mean, I was late...um...getting up from sleep…and...uh," Eva stammered.
Father Haralambos turned to get a pitcher of lemonade. "You didn’t sleep well?" He asked and offered her the drink. "Was your back giving you problems?"
Eva took the glass and gazed at it trying to decide if she should tell Father Haralambos about her broken promise to God and her love for Zoe. He just came back into your life and now you’ve gone and thrown it away. Stupid, stupid, stupid. She looked up to find Father Haralambos gazing at her with a puzzled look. "No...uh, my back is fine, well, as fine as it will ever be."
"I know you’re angry and upset about this whole train business, but you seem flustered and not quite yourself." Father Haralambos sat down opposite Eva and took the drink from her hands and put it aside. "What is the matter?"
"No…I mean, yes...um," Eva stammered, thinking that she might as well dig a hole and bury herself in it. She hadn’t thought it was going to be so hard to tell Father Haralambos. She had confided in him that she had been a lesbian. Eva wanted to laugh at the absurdity of telling her real father that she used to be a lesbian but wasn’t anymore. Then she had watched the shock register on his face. She had quickly added that she was no longer a lesbian and she had been cured. Eva was certain that he would not understand the latest twist in her life. She knew she didn’t understand how it had happened, how Zoe had breached her defenses, but she had, and there was nothing Eva could do about it.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"Yes, to my priest first," Eva replied quietly.
"Alright, I’m your priest." Father Haralambos got up and went to the back of the door where he had hung his coat. Eva watched him wear the coat again and return to where she was sitting. "What’s on your mind?"
Eva swallowed nervously. "Father, I’ve sinned against God."
"We all sin."
Eva took a deep breath and looked up at Father Haralambos with some trepidation. "You remember I told you about Aiden?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Um...I made a promise to God and I’ve broken that promise. I lied to God."
Father Haralambos took Eva’s hands into his own and gently squeezed them. "You could never lie to God. He knows what’s in your heart."
"Well, I was lying to Him."
"What did you say?"
Eva worried her lip as she struggled with the painful memories and the deep despair that had overpowered her. After several minutes of total silence in the room, she took a deep breath to steady her nerves. "I promised Him that I would never fall in love with anyone again. I promised Him that no matter what, I was no longer going to give in to my heart. All I asked was that He would save me."
Eva looked into Father Haralambos’ eyes and saw the tears that formed in those deep blue eyes that mirrored her own. Her own tears made silent tracks down her cheeks, which she didn’t bother to brush away. "I...uh," Eva stopped when she couldn’t continue.
"Take your time," Father Haralambos told her, his voice breaking with emotion.
"I promised Him that I wouldn’t let anyone control my heart, but I lost control of my heart."
"No one can control their heart. You are not perfect, nor am I. Our Lord knows this and forgives us. I know you are going to marry Captain Reinhardt --that’s not a sin even if he is an unpleasant man. You can’t control what your heart does."
"No." Eva shook her head. "Father, this was a promise..."
"How can you promise something to God that is out of your hands?"
"I thought it was in my power."
"You can’t control your heart."
"My heart betrayed me."
"Yes, it can do that. Do you think God does not love you now that you have proven to be human?"
"I gave Him my word."
"He didn’t want your word. He wants you to have faith. We all stumble, we fall, we realize we have made mistakes and we get up again."
"I have faith."
"I know you do." Father Haralambos took Eva’s hand and kissed it. "You have a faith that is strong despite all the hardships you endured. Your faith is what kept you alive."
"I have to confess that my faith is warring with my heart."
"I’ve fallen in love," Eva replied and gazed at Father Haralambos for any sign of his disapproval.
"This isn’t news, sweetheart. You and Captain Reinhardt are going to get married. Why are you so upset?"
"It’s not Jurgen." Eva exhaled slowly.
"Oh," Father Haralambos softly exclaimed. "I see," he said and stroked his beard. "Well, that is a complication and I understand how you will be conflicted. Is there a way to break it off with this other fellow? It’s not Henry, is it? I’ve seen the way he looks at you."
Father Haralambos smiled. "That young man loves you, Eva."
"No, Father, it’s not Henry." Eva shook her head and looked down at the floor.
"Alright then. You gave your heart to this other fellow and you are also engaged to Reinhardt. It is quite a dilemma, but God will understand."
"Father, it’s…I don’t know how to tell you this."
"What’s there to say? You have fallen in love with two men. It happens."
"It’s not what you think." Eva took a deep breath and slowly released it. "It’s Zoe," she said, and for a fleeting moment there was an eyebrow twitch and nothing else from the priest. Father Haralambos’ expression remained neutral.
"I see," Father Haralambos finally said. "When I said you should become friends, I didn’t mean that."
A slight smile played on Eva’s lips despite her apprehension and anxiety over the confession. "I didn’t want to."
"You didn’t want to fall in love with Zoe?"
"But you did."
Father Haralambos stroked his graying long beard and gazed at Eva. "The medical treatment you received in Aiden didn’t work."
"Obviously not. Your heart desired what it needed the most."
"A death wish?"
Father Haralambos smiled. "No, not a death wish. I don’t know a lot about your disease, Eva, but what I do know is that you can’t control who you fall in love with. I fell in love with your mother and you were the beautiful gift from that. Yes, it was wrong and we sinned by not getting married first, but we can’t control our hearts. You might as well petition God to stop the world from turning. Does Zoe know how you feel about her?"
Eva nodded. "She does."
"She told me you had become friends, and that’s what I prayed would happen, but I didn’t think you would..um..have those kinds of feelings for her."
"I didn’t want to, Father, you have to believe me, I didn’t want to." Eva reached out and took Father Haralambos’ hand. "I tried not to think about her, but I couldn’t help myself."
"Have you tried prayer?"
"Did you try to think of something else that will banish those desires from your mind? We can’t always control our thoughts and God understands that."
Eva gazed at her father and sighed. "I tried thinking of other things. I tried to immerse myself in our work, I tried not to let my feelings for Zoe get in the way but…"
"It’s very difficult with Zoe working so closely with you."
"Does Reinhardt know how you feel about Zoe?"
"God, no. I hope not. If he does, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you. I would be dead."
"I see. With our mission here at an end, I think it would be wise for Zoe to cease being your maid and for that temptation to be out of your reach," Father Haralambos exclaimed. "What you need to do is to remove the temptation."
Eva sat in silence with her head bowed. She didn’t look up to meet her father’s gaze. "It’s too late for that."
Eva raised her head. "I kissed her."
"Oh. So Zoe now knows how you feel about her. That must have been a shock to young Zoe."
Despite the seriousness of the conversation, Eva couldn’t help but smile. "No, it wasn’t a shock to her. She kissed me back."
"Oh…I see. Hm. How did it happen?"
"I don’t know. I was trying to resist my feelings towards her and I’ve been suffering for months. Trust me, this hasn’t been easy for me."
"Is that why you have been ill?"
"You knew that by having these feelings for Zoe, you would be physically ill?"
Eva nodded. "I couldn’t control my thoughts and last night I couldn’t control my actions. I made a promise to God that I wouldn’t love another woman and I would be what everyone wanted me to be. I can’t do that even if it makes me ill."
"You were lying about falling in love with Reinhardt?"
Eva looked down at her engagement ring. "I was using him to survive. I know that was wrong but I thought that Jurgen would keep me alive."
"You didn’t have feelings for Zoe when you agreed to marry him?"
"If you remember, Zoe wanted to kill me and the last thing I wanted to do was be anywhere near her."
"Yes, I remember." Father Haralambos put his arm around Eva’s shoulders. "I’m sorry I put the two of you together and it has caused this to happen."
"Father, I am who I am and there was nothing you did that caused this. It was me."
"By confessing your feelings to me about Zoe, did you think I would love you less because you are different?"
"Yes," Eva answered truthfully.
"No, you’re wrong. I will always love you. You are my daughter and nothing in this world will make me stop loving you. I am your father and a father never stops loving their child."
"Because that is what a father does. He loves his child more than life itself. God loves us as a father, and just because you think you broke a promise to Him and thought He would stop loving you, you’re wrong. He knew it was a promise you couldn’t keep."
"Am I going to Hell?"
"For what? Breaking a promise that you couldn’t possibly be able to keep? You can’t control your heart, Eva. I don’t understand it but you are my daughter. That’s all that matters. I also don’t believe in Hell."
Eva’s eyebrows rose at the declaration that came from the cleric. "The Church---"
"The Bible talks to me about a loving God. As a father I wouldn’t want to hurt my child, now why would God want to hurt His children? He wouldn’t. We won’t tell the Archbishop that I don’t believe in Hell. Nor are we going to tell him about your feelings for Zoe. Why don’t I make us some tea and we can have a long chat about it?"
Father Haralambos nodded. He got up from his seat and left the office, leaving Eva to think about what had transpired. It wasn’t what she had expected at all.
Father Haralambos closed the door and leaned against it for a moment. He crossed himself and brought the gold cross that hung around his neck to his lips and kissed it. Eva’s revelation was something he wasn’t expecting, nor was Eva’s guilt. He sighed and quickly went into the tiny kitchen to make some tea. He leaned against the door jamb and watched the water boil. I did tell her to be friends but this isn’t what I had in mind. Zoe and Eva? They couldn’t be any more different if they tried. Zoe is a handful and Eva is so quiet. Dear Lord, what is to become of them when I’m gone? He took the pot and poured the tea into cups.
"Alright, let’s have some tea," Father Haralambos said as he came back into his office to find Eva staring outside the window. "Eva?"
Eva turned around and rubbed her eyes before sitting down and taking the teacup. They drank in silence until Father Haralambos cleared his throat. "So, you love Zoe."
"Does she love you?"
"I don’t know. She says she’s in ‘heavy like.’"
"Hmm, there is no hope for her."
"What do you think?"
"What do I think? I think you’re going to be playing with fire."
"Zoe is a spirited young woman. She won’t take no for an answer," Father Haralambos replied. "But she’s also very loyal, loving, and will fight to the end for things she believes in."
"Are you shocked?" Eva tentatively asked.
"Am I shocked? Yes. That’s the last thing I expected. I had hoped you two wouldn’t kill each other. That’s what I prayed wouldn’t happen. You having that kind of feelings for Zoe wasn’t what I was expecting," Father Haralambos replied, carefully watching for Eva’s reaction.
Eva stared impassively at him, her slender fingers clasped and resting on her lap. "Yes, it was my hope that she wouldn’t kill me either. I don’t know how it happened but Zoe just..I don’t know," she finally replied.
"As your father, I want to see you happy." Father Haralambos took Eva’s hands and held them. "You and Zoe together is going to be a recipe for disaster. If you were ever found out…"
"I know. My stepfather will kill me."
"You have to end this. You have to stop. I don’t want you to suffer. We both know you will be tortured again. You have suffered enough. No more. You will get yourself and Zoe killed."
"I know, Father but---"
"Eva, my darling daughter, you can’t have what your heart desires. You can’t put Zoe through this either. Hasn’t she suffered enough?"
Eve wiped the tears that ran down her cheeks with the back of her hand and sniffed. "I don’t want to have these feelings for her, but I do. I want to be happy, I want to feel that someone loves me for who I am and not for who they want me to be."
"Even if that means that this love you have for Zoe will mean both your deaths?"
Eva turned away and looked out the window. "Yes."
"Is that what Zoe wants?"
"Zoe doesn’t know what all of this means, she doesn’t understand the consequences, but she has feelings for me."
"Hm." Father Haralambos put his arm around Eva’s shoulders and brought her close. "I don’t understand these feelings you have, Eva, but you are my daughter. I won’t condemn you. I want you to be happy and at peace, even for a little while. If that means you are with Zoe, then you have my blessing. The Church says otherwise, but this time I will go with what my heart says."
"My head says to run away but my heart---"
"Listen to your heart." Father Haralambos finished her thought, placing his hand over his own heart. "I didn’t listen to my heart and it meant twenty-four years of not knowing my child. I don’t want you to regret not following your heart but if you do, it will have consequences; you will be found out. The truth always comes out. Are you prepared for when that happens?"
"I know what it means. Zoe doesn’t, but I do."
"You should tell Zoe. Let her make the choice with all the consequences that it will bring."
"Yes, Father," Eva whispered. "About that promise..."
"God understands. I told you He knew you couldn’t keep that promise even if you thought you could."
"I don’t know what to do."
"Yes, you do. You will follow your heart."
"Please, don’t go."
"I have to, my child. I’m leaving tomorrow," Father Haralambos said quietly and brushed Eva’s tears away with the end of his black robes.
"Maybe Thanasi can take you away."
"This is my cup, my child. I can’t give it to someone else," Father Haralambos replied, knowing that no matter what he said, Eva would try and change his mind, just as Zoe had tried.
"Thanasi said they are going to blow up the train. I don’t want to lose you."
"I don’t want to lose you either, but my time has come. You have to be strong. You have to help Zoe as she will help you. You’re not alone anymore," Father Haralambos said, trying to ease Eva’s fears.
"Because I have Zoe, does that mean I have to let you go?" Eva asked, her voice breaking. "Can’t I have you and Zoe in my life?"
"I can’t let Major Muller know that I know what will happen to the train. He is not a stupid man. He is an evil man, but not stupid. He will make the connection. I don’t want you to suffer again at his hands. Do you understand?"
"Maybe I can escape with you and then he won’t be able to get his hands on either of us."
Father Haralambos sighed. "What of Zoe? Will you leave her behind?"
"No. But she---"
Father Haralambos stopped her with a finger against her lips. "My child, if I could do that, I would, but we can’t all escape. That would risk many lives. I have lived a long life, a very good life. I don’t have a death wish, but Eva, my darling daughter, there is no other way. I won’t sacrifice your life. You have lost too much already."
Eva sighed and sagged against him. Father Haralambos kissed her cheek tenderly. "I think you need to go to Zoe. She needs you now. You both need each other. She came to see me at Athena’s Bluff. I’m sure she’s still there."
Eva nodded, brushing away the tears.
"Tell her the consequences of both your actions, let her make that decision based on what is to come and trust in God," Father Haralambos said as he tenderly wiped away her tears with the handkerchief he had finally found when the sleeves of his robe had grown damp.
Eva swallowed the lump in her throat and she drank some of the now cold tea. "She is everything to me."
"I can see that. Be happy in the time you both have left. Will you do that for me?"
"Yes, Father," Eva said quietly as she held his hands.
"I want you to do something else for me," Father Haralambos continued. "If you are not found out and you survive this war, I want you to get out of Greece when the war ends. I want you and Zoe to leave. Thanasi tells me there is more bloodshed coming. He said Greece will be plunged into civil war and I don’t want you two to be here. Just remember that I’ll be with you in spirit. Zoe’s asked me not to try and reorganize Heaven, so I will need something to occupy my time," he joked. "Take care of yourself and of Zoe," he added.
"Remember, my child, I will always love you. I thank God every day that He brought you to me." Father Haralambos brushed back the dark bangs from Eva’s eyes. "Don’t forget now. Remember to pray," he admonished and kissed her tenderly on the cheek.
Chapter Thirty Four
Eva had an idea as she left the church. She wasn’t going to give up trying to find a way to rescue Father Haralambos. She owed him that much. If she had learned anything from living in Larissa over the course of two years, it was the unyielding spirit of the Greeks against the occupation. They never gave up hope --they found ways to survive and to thwart the Germans.
She slowed as she came to the train station. It was tightly guarded on all sides. The soldiers were milling around and she wondered if they were from General Kiefer in Athens. The piteous cries coming from the boxcars broke her heart. She watched as the soldiers poured water onto the boxcars to quiet the yells and screams that were coming from inside. The weather had turned cold and it sickened her to think of the poor souls in the boxcars being drenched with the cold water. She shook her head and said a silent prayer. Turning away in disgust, she stumbled into Reinhardt, who caught her to keep her from falling.
"Ah, darling. Don’t fall now. We wouldn’t want that cold mud on you," Reinhardt said and grinned.
"Do they have to pour the water? It’s freezing," Eva said as she tried to regain her balance.
"Yes." Reinhardt put his arm around Eva. "What are you doing here?"
"I was curious," Eva replied. She hadn’t anticipated being stopped. There were some advantages to being the major’s daughter. The soldiers knew her and didn’t attempt to ask her questions. Except for Reinhardt.
"Curious?" Reinhardt repeated. "Would you like to see some of the scum that we took off the train?" he asked as he scrutinized Eva’s face.
"No, that’s fine. Nurse Klein has admonished me for not getting enough exercise." Eva made a face. "I think the woman wants me to walk around all day."
"Nurse Klein has a clean air and a clean mind approach." Reinhardt chuckled. "She was very annoyed with me for tiring you out."
Eva mentally rolled her eyes at Reinhardt’s egotistical need to be told he was a good lover. As far as Eva was concerned it was far from the truth. She sighed internally and laughed at her fiancé’s remarks.
"Don’t be too long. I’ll see you later," Reinhardt said as he watched Eva walk away.
Eva walked down the street towards Athena’s Bluff. She was distracted by her thoughts of the poor Jews, Father Haralambos and Zoe. She was unaware of her surroundings, unaware of the children playing in the street or the dog that barked at her passing. Henry and Barkow were right behind her but they might as well have been invisible.
Finally reaching the bluff, she saw Zoe sitting on the lookout, sketching. Eva smiled and took a moment to drink in the sight of this lovely young woman who filled her heart with hope and joy. She shook her head as a throbbing behind her eyes signaled the arrival of yet another migraine. With a deep sigh, she tried not to think about Zoe, but it was becoming increasingly difficult not to.
Zoe turned around and smiled when she saw Eva. She got up and walked the short distance to where Eva was standing. "Hi. You look exhausted," Zoe said. "Let’s go inside the cabin."
"What’s wrong with out here? I love the view."
"Well," Zoe leaned in and whispered. "You have a headache. I can see it, so I would rather you not fall down that cliff. You’re taller and heavier than me."
"I’m not heavy."
"Evy, you’re much taller and heavier and I can’t catch you if you get dizzy. So my plan," Zoe lowered her voice, "is to get inside the cabin and do a bit of kissing. I have the bucket ready as well."
Eva couldn’t help laughing as she was led inside the cabin and the door was shut. She looked around in amazement. The flokati rug had taken center stage in the middle of the room and pillows were strewn around on an old sofa. It was rather inviting.
"It looks lovely," Eva said quietly and gazed down at the rug. "I think things are going too fast for me."
"You’re not regretting—"
"Oh, no, Zoe." Eva realized she had inadvertently given Zoe the wrong impression and it had frightened the younger woman. A part of her was more than a little pleased that Zoe didn’t want to let her go.
Zoe leaned against the wall and regarded Eva for a long moment. "This is difficult, not being able to touch you."
Eva met Zoe’s gaze and held it for a long moment. Without a word she closed the gap between them. She cupped Zoe's face and brought her lips down for a passionate kiss. She moved her kisses across Zoe’s jaw and down her neck as Zoe slipped one hand into Eva’s dark locks to hold her closer. They parted and smiled at each other. Eva grimaced as her head started to ache. She tried to ignore it but her knees started to tremble.
"Oh boy!" Zoe said breathlessly as they parted. "That was even better than the first time." Zoe looked at Eva. "You’re getting another migraine."
"I’m ignoring it," Eva replied as she looked around and found the chair nearby. She sat down heavily and cradled her head in her hands.
"Do you have your medication with you?"
"No." Eva shook her head. "I want to just learn to live with it. I’m not giving you up because of a little headache."
"It’s not a little anything, Evy—"
"No, I’m not taking those pills. They make me feel fuzzy and right now I can’t afford to feel fuzzy."
"I can’t let you do this to yourself." Zoe knelt beside the chair. "I won’t be the cause of your pain. When this stupid war ends, we will find someone who can undo the damage those bastards did to you."
"I don’t think it can be undone," Eva mumbled. She let her head rest against the chair’s hard wooden headrest.
"I don’t believe that. If they can do it, they can undo it. There has to be a doctor who can undo this."
Eva gazed at Zoe and a smile slowly surfaced. "There isn’t anyone to help me."
"Why does the idea of someone helping you to overcome this scare you so much?"
Eva stared at Zoe for a long moment. "I’m scared of what they will do to get rid of this." Eva tapped herself on the side of the head.
"Why don’t we wait to find out what it is before you dismiss it?"
"I don’t know—"
"You are stubborn."
Eva laughed at the absurdity of the conversation. "I’m not in your league when it comes to stubbornness, Miss Zoe Lambros."
"Is that right?" Zoe grinned, leaned over and blew Eva a kiss. "A kiss that doesn’t touch you doesn’t hurt, does it?"
Eva was going to say no but stopped. "It’s not just the kissing, Zo."
"What is it?’
"I’m physically attracted to you. I’m fighting myself over this. My heart is betraying me and this damaged head of mine follows."
"Oh," Zoe exclaimed softly and sat down on the floor. "How long have you been attracted to me?"
"I don’t know when it happened. It just did and I couldn’t stop it."
"That’s amazing. All those fancy doctors with their fancy ideas of how to change who you are, and they thought they did, but they couldn’t change you," Zoe replied as her gaze never left Eva. "Despite everything they did to you, you are true to who you really are."
Zoe got up off the floor and knelt beside Eva’s chair again. "Who you are can never be corrupted."
"Who I am is the reason I can’t kiss you without falling over in a heap."
"We will find a way to fix it. I know we will."
"This can’t be fixed," Eva said quietly. "I don’t want to lose you but—"
"This can be fixed; it will be fixed."
"I will believe because you believe it," Eva replied with a smile. "I saw Father today. I told him the truth about us."
"You spoke with Father H?"
"It’s alright, Zoe. He understands even though he doesn’t."
"Did you tell him we are more than friends?"
"Yes, I told him that I love you."
"Oh, boy. I bet that was a surprise to him."
"Yes, he was surprised. He was hoping we weren’t going to kill each other."
Zoe smiled. "I was hoping I would."
"I know." Eva leaned forward and cradled her aching head in her hands. "I hoped you would end this too."
"I’m glad I didn’t," Zoe said quietly and touched Eva’s leg. "We will find a way to make you better."
"Don’t give up hope. You survived hell and you are giving up now?"
Eva looked down at Zoe and marveled at her unbelievable strength. "If you have hope, then I have hope. I said to Father I broke a promise to God."
Eva looked up at the ceiling for a long moment. If she was going to trust Zoe with her heart, she had the right to know. "I promised God that I wouldn’t fall in love with another woman."
"That’s just plain silly," Zoe exclaimed.
"Well, because it is. I can promise God that I wouldn’t draw again but He gave me that gift, so how can I promise not to use it? I can’t. It’s a part of who I am."
Eva wasn’t quite sure if Zoe truly understood. "Zoe, loving to draw is different from being a lesbian."
"I know that, but can you control your heart?"
Eva shook her head. It was plainly obvious that she couldn’t. "No."
"What makes you think you can promise God something you have no control over?"
"So you think that God made me a lesbian?" Eva asked a little incredulously.
"Did you make yourself love women instead of men?"
"I don’t know. I never thought about it."
"Exactly. Now why did you promise Him that?"
"I was in a very dark place, and I just wanted…" Eva didn’t want to tell Zoe about that particular memory. It was too raw and too personal. "Can we not talk about this now?"
"Maybe one day you will tell me, but until you’re ready, I’ll wait. Now did Father H give his approval?"
"Well, he wasn’t doing handstands in his office, but he wanted us to be happy for the little time we have left."
"What little time? I plan on surviving this war and taking you with me to see what’s beyond Mount Ossa." Zoe placed her hand on Eva’s leg. "We will survive this. I know we will. We will find a cure for what they have done to you."
"If we are found out…"
"They won’t find out, and if they do, we can escape into the mountains."
Eva gazed down and smiled. "Run away with you into the mountains."
"Yes. We will survive this war, Evy. If only Father H could be with us. There must be something we can do. What if we sabotage the train before it leaves?" Zoe asked.
"It will only postpone the inevitable," Eva responded dejectedly.
"What if Ares can get Father H out of the train?" Zoe tried again.
"I’ve seen the train, Zoe. It’s guarded by so many soldiers no one can get close without being stopped. There are four boxcars," Eva replied, unable to dispel the image of the soldiers pouring the water into the boxcar and the screams that she had heard.
"What’s in the boxcars?" Zoe asked, gazing up at Eva. She frowned when a tear rolled down Eva’s face. "What’s the matter?" She asked and brushed away the tear with her fingers.
"They...they hold Jews. I could hear their screams. The soldiers were pouring water into the cars to quiet them down," Eva whispered. She rubbed at her eyes.
Zoe closed her eyes and sighed.
"When this war ends, I want us to leave together, get out of here," Zoe pleaded. "We can go to Germany so you can see your grandmother."
"There’s nothing there for me."
"Why don’t you want to go back?"
"My grandmother disowned me. I don’t want to go back. Do you still want to go to Australia?"
"Yes, but only if you are with me. It would be a very lonely journey without you."
"It’s a long journey by ship. Have you ever been on a ship?"
"No, but it’s going to be fun."
"I told you, Zo, I will go anywhere you want to go. I will follow anywhere you go," Eva whispered as Zoe rose and kissed her lightly despite the searing pain in her head.
Chapter Thirty Five
Father Haralambos sat on his bed, the early morning sun shining through the threadbare curtains. His suitcase stood in the corner and he frowned. Yesterday, Sister Maria brought him a woolen scarf she had made, saying that he would need it since she had heard that the weather in Thessaloniki had turned cold. He had tried to decline, but the good Sister was quite stubborn — more so than his own stubborn tendencies — so he relented. He was again surprised when Sister Gregoria gave him a woolen jacket stating the same concern. He had spent the rest of the day writing letters to the Archbishop and getting the church ready for the Sunday sermon, which was to be delivered by the organist, since he wasn’t supposed to be back in time. In fact, he knew well that he would never be back.
He was brought back from the goings on of the previous day by a knock on the door. Father Haralambos frowned and took out his pocket watch. It was only 7:00 a.m. — too early for his call to go to the train. He opened the door. Thanasi stood there thumping his feet on the ground because of the cold. Father Haralambos ushered him inside. "What are you doing here?" He asked as Thanasi removed his scarf and coat.
"I know I said goodbye last night, but I had to see you one more time," Thanasi said.
"I thought we already had this discussion yesterday?" Father Haralambos went to the teapot to brew some tea.
"Father, please, I beg you, please, reconsider," Thanasi pleaded.
Father Haralambos sighed and turned to Thanasi. "Don’t you know how much I would dearly love to stay? Do you think I haven’t thought about escaping? Don’t make it more difficult for me. Today I know maybe one tenth of what Jesus must have felt like in the Garden of Gethsemane. Don’t you know that I would dearly love to hand this bitter cup to someone else?" He turned away from Thanasi and hurriedly brushed away the tears.
Thanasi watched as Father Haralambos poured him a cup of tea and then sat down. "I’m sorry," he apologized quietly.
"I know, my son, I know. I want you to promise me something."
"Anything," Thanasi knelt near Father Haralambos.
"I want you to promise me you will keep an eye on Zoe and Eva. Watch over them. They are going to need your help. When the war ends, I want you to take them out of the country. I don’t want them to be here when the civil war starts. Can you do that for me?"
"Good boy. I know you don’t believe in God anymore, but for a tiny moment I want you to believe. Believe in Him." Thanasi put his head on Father Haralambos’ lap and began to cry. Father Haralambos held Thanasi and patted his head. "Now, now...come on, have courage." He lifted Thanasi’s face and brushed away the tears with his hand.
"I love you, Father."
"I love you too, my boy. Now go and make me proud." Father Haralambos kissed Thanasi on the top of his head. He watched as he put his jacket back on and then his scarf.
Thanasi brushed away the tears and went to the door. "You are my hero," he admitted proudly, and then walked out the door and down the alleyway.
Father Haralambos watched the door close and smiled. "His hero," he repeated and shook his head. He finished his tea and cleaned the kitchen. He looked at his timepiece again. "Well, it’s time I made my way to the train station."
He stopped in front of the crucifix and crossed himself. "Dear Lord, You know what is to come. Use me as You see fit in the time I have left." He kissed the icon and picked up his suitcase. "I hope Saint Peter doesn’t keep me waiting at the Pearly Gates. I hate waiting," he said as he left the house.
Father Haralambos glanced up at the sky, which was cloud free, and shook his head. He shuffled along and rounded the corner of the church, stopping for a moment to watch the routine activity around him. Dimitri, the baker, was starting his day; he saw the priest and bade him a good morning. Father Haralambos raised his hand and waved back. He had watched this town’s residents grow up and get married, had baptized their young and watched their young repeat the cycle. He wondered if life ever truly stopped. Probably not, he thought, and started walking again.
"Ah, Father Haralambos. Beautiful day, isn’t it?"
Father Haralambos turned around and saw Captain Reinhardt. "Good day to you, Captain. Yes, it’s a beautiful day," he replied and began walking.
"Are you looking forward to your trip?" Reinhardt inquired, easily keeping pace with Father Haralambos.
"Quite. I hear Thessaloniki is cold at the moment. Beautiful city. I’m looking forward to seeing Father Makarios when I get there."
Father Haralambos continued to walk towards the station while Reinhardt veered the other way. He shook his head. He glanced up at Muller’s residence and spotted Eva at the window. Beside her was Zoe, who looked as though she had slept in her clothes. He smiled up at them and waved.
Eva blew him a kiss and mouthed, "I love you."
Father Haralambos nodded and walked away. He didn’t want to turn back and have another look. He would lose his composure if he did. He finally arrived at the train station, where soldiers were milling about.
"Halt. This area is restricted," a young German soldier said in broken Greek.
"I am to board the train." Father Haralambos handed his papers to the soldier.
The soldier looked at the papers and after a moment he waved the priest through.
Father Haralambos stood on the platform as the chaos swirled around him. He sniffed the air and grimaced. The smell of decay was all around the train. Before he could discover the source, the door opened on one of the boxcars and a body was thrown out. The soldiers held their noses while their comrades dragged the man from the platform and threw him into the ditch near the tracks. The body rolled down the embankment and landed with a thud at the bottom.
Father Haralambos bowed his head and said a silent prayer. He looked up and met the eyes of the soldier who had pushed the man into the ditch. "Forgive them, Father," he prayed quietly.
"You!" the soldier said. "There is a space here." He pointed to the boxcar. Father Haralambos picked up his suitcase and walked to the car.
"Maybe you can convert these animals before they meet Jesus." The soldier sneered. His comrades laughed.
"I’m sure Jesus will be most happy to meet them. I’m not so sure what He will say about you," Father Haralambos said as he walked into the car, leaving the soldier slack-jawed.
The stench hit him as he stepped into the crowded car. He inhaled sharply. The occupants looked at him wearily and bowed their heads again. Their pain was too overpowering to be worrying why a Greek Orthodox priest was in the car with them. Father Haralambos found a small spot near the rear of the car, put his suitcase down and sat on it. He mentally kicked himself for not bringing food with him.
Father Haralambos bowed his head and prayed. When he looked up, he saw a young child looking at him. The little girl smiled at him. Her big brown eyes were red from crying and tears stained her grubby cheeks, her dark hair was matted, and her clothes were dirty. He tried to see if her parents were with her, but no one was paying any attention to the young girl. He smiled at her and waved her over. "What is your name?"
"Rebecca Stavrithis. What’s yours?" Rebecca asked, looking at Father Haralambos’ long white beard and black robe. His gold crucifix stood starkly against the black of his robe.
"Panayiotis Haralambos. Are you here alone?"
"My daddy was here, but they..." Rebecca started crying.
Father Haralambos held Rebecca while she sobbed. "Do you want me to tell you a story?" He offered as he wiped away the tears.
Rebecca hiccupped, nodded, and rubbed her eyes.
"Okay, do you know the story of the donkey that talked?" Rebecca shook her head and Father Haralambos began his tale as the train started to move.
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