Chapter Nine

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*A/N: Uploading a chapter before vacation. Enjoy!*

     We never did get to leave until Stalingrad fell. Axel never revealed my identity and I didn't see him when he returned to combat until his troops took control of the city. I don't fight him this time, as the truth is I miss my family. I don't know how they'll react to me running away. Maybe both my parents will slap me this time.

Two weeks later and I'm now going up the dirt road to my house. The first thing I notice is smoke coming from behind the house, out in the distance.

"What's that?" I ask Axel, who had followed me home as well.

"I'll tell you later."

I nod. My eyes drink in the home I had longed for in the scary and cold moments in Russia. I jump when someone places their hand on my shoulder.

"Sorry," Axel says. "We're here. It's time to face your family."

I give him a panicked look, my heart racing in my chest.

"I'm here, Lucy. I support you."

I'm almost hopeful. "You support me being a nurse?"

He gives me a flat, "No" as he exits the car. I wait for him to open my door and help me down then together we walk to the screen door.

"Should...should we knock?" I ask him.

"It's your home, Lucy. Just go in."

I nod, pulling the door open and walking into our kitchen.

"Ah, Axel, you're a bit late—" My father stops mid-sentence when he notices me beside the Colonel.

"Papa, I—"

I don't get to finish my sentence before I'm pulled into my father's embrace. Feeling the wetness on his cheeks, I feel even worse than before.

"Alfons, what's going on?" My mother appears then. The sound of glass breaking pulls my father and I apart. She had dropped a pitcher of water out of shock.

"Irene! Get in here and clean up this mess!" my mother yells, for what I presume is a maid before walking over to me. She looks my uniform up and down, smiling slightly before pulling me into a hug too, though this one is definitely briefer.

"Oh where is that useless Jew?" my mother mutters to herself. A minute later, a girl about my age with dark hair and beautiful dark hair runs in, almost stepping on the glass in her haste.

"Sorry, m'am."

My mother dismisses her apology, letting her get to cleaning the glass up. I openly study the young girl, taking in her threadbare clothes and oily hair. Maybe I can give her some of my older clothes that no longer fit me.

"Lucy, stop staring," Axel nudges me. Luckily my parents were busy getting my things settled in and getting Axel and I something to eat.

"We must bake a cake! We missed your birthday by two weeks."

That's right. My birthday was on February 2nd. The same day Stalingrad fell. I just considered that my birthday present.

"That means you're eighteen now?" Axel questions. I nod, looking down at my worn shoes. I really didn't want to celebrate my birthday. I didn't last year, as I wasn't even Lucy, but Adaline.

A few hours later, and a simple vanilla cake was sitting in the middle of the table. I was so stuffed from dinner that I wasn't even sure I could eat cake. It was at this moment that Fredrick's absence hit me the hardest.

Actually, everything hit me hard at that moment. I was home but I wasn't really. Tears began streaming down my face until I was silently sobbing.

"Lucy?" I look to the left, away from Axel who was questioning me.

"I need to be excused." I stand up quickly, running upstairs to my room. It's exactly how I left it, which makes me cry harder.

But I'm angry.

I grab the nearest thing to me, a small mirror, and hurl it at the wall. The action does nothing to calm me down. If anything, it increases my rage. Soon, I'm throwing everything against the wall that isn't heavy.

I didn't notice Axel come in during my tantrum, so the feeling of his arms around my body for comfort startles me.

"It's okay to be angry," he says soothingly into my ear. "I'm angry too."

"I thought it didn't affect me. I thought I was serving our country," I hiccup. He rubs my back in a circular motion. Axel knows exactly how to comfort a woman. It probably means he's done it a lot to other women.

I try to push that last thought out of my head but fail. Pulling away from him, I brush myself off, refusing to look him in the eye.

"Thank you. I'm fine now Colonel Ackermann. You may go."

He nods to me, leaving the room quickly. Inside, I really wanted him to stay. But I know he wouldn't have.

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