Chapter Ten

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Even though it's freezing, I'm back at my tree, a book in my hand

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Even though it's freezing, I'm back at my tree, a book in my hand. Insted of being a poetry book by Keates, I'm reading an university book about medical treatment in bad conditions.

"Lucy." I look up from my book and see Axel.

"Yes?"

"You're going to catch an illness out here."

"Good thing I'm a nurse," I tell him, going back down to my book. Moments later, it's snatched from my hands.

He takes a good look at it, his eyes turning dark. "You're not going back to the battlefield."

I stand up, reaching for my borrowed book. "You aren't my father, Axel!" I yell at him.

"Your father won't let you go back, either! And you impersonated your mother! That's not okay!"

I'm finished with the conversation. That's when a whiff of something...dreadful...hits my nostrils.

"Axel, what's that smell?" I ask, watching his posture go stiff, the color draining from his face.

"The fuhrer opened a work camp nearby. They burn a lot of things, it might just be something nasty this time."

I cover my nose, fighting the urge to throw up. Not even the smell of home was still intact. When I went to walk past him, Axel grabbed my arm, pulling me roughly against him.

"This isn't proper," I whisper to him harshly.

He let's out a mocking laugh. "Now you're worried about proprietry?" He lets me go, though.

Later that night after supper, I'm writing my usual letters to Axel. I'm pulled away from that when our maid dropped a plate she had been drying. She goes stricken as I rush to help her.

"Please don't, Frau Muller," she whispers to me, swatting my helpful hands away. I back up, startled by her reaction. "It's best if you return to your writing, Frau Muller."

Reluctantly I do, not sure what's going on.

When I wake up the next morning, Irene is the only one up. I didn't realize that being a war nurse had messed up my schedule to the point I woke up before my mother or father.

"Has Axel—Colonel Ackermann awoken yet?" I question her. She nods her head, going back to breakfast.

"We went to school together, didn't we, Irene?" Again, she nods her head without looking me in the eye.

"Why can't you talk to me?"

She doesn't respond to my question this time. I want to press further but my mother walks in. She's startled to see me awake.

"Oh, what are you doing already awake?"

I shrug. "Just the schedule I'm used to."

My father and Axel come in talking, cutting off any further chat between my mother and I.

"...anything to do about that stench coming from the camps?" This is Axel.

"Nein. It's just another problem these pigs cause to our country."

I don't know if anyone else noticed Irene noticeably shuddering.

"Is breakfast not done yet?!" my father booms at Irene. I feel myself moving in front of her but my brain isn't yet in sync with my movements. Which is why the pain of my father's slap isn't felt until several seconds after.

"Sir! Stop it!" Axel shouts but I feel another slap.

"Al! Stop!" I'm surprised by my mother defending me. Yet, it doesn't cease my father's blows.

Then they stop. I open my eyes to see my father with hands around his neck, pressed against the kitchen door. The hands belong to none other than Axel Ackermann.

"I didn't...I couldn't stop..."

"I know, Sir," Axel whispers softly to my father.

I stand back up, putting Irene behind me. My father makes a move like he's going after her again. "Do not touch her, father," I quietly say, but my voice is full of defiance nonetheless.

"You don't understand, daughter," he replies, inching closer to me.

"She isn't your daughter, nor is she your slave. What gives you the right to hit her?"

My father stops, maybe by my words or by Irene's frightened face. He turns to Axel, a knowing look passing between them before my father left the kitchen.

"Lucy, I need you to come with me. Bring your uniform, too. Your dress one."

I nod, giving one reassuring smile to Irene, then heading upstairs to change.

Our truck arrives outside of gates to a place that almost looks like a prison.

"What I show you here cannot be repeated to anyone else. Do you hear me?"

I nod, dread slowly filling my core. I find out when our vehicle goes through through the gates. I want to throw up at the sight.

"Keep it together Lucienne. Sympathy shown to them can lead to death."

"Then why did you bring me here, Axel?"

He sighs, his grip on the steering wheel becoming tighter. "I need you to know why your maid is allowed to be treated this way, and what the war really is. What cause you really helping."

"Who are these people?" I ask him.

"Jews, Lucy. And a few other lower people."

"Do you think like these people, Axel."

He pauses, not looking at me. "I can't answer that."

I nod. We don't get out and soon our vehicle is back on it's way home.

"What's that smell from, Axel?"

"Dead bodies."

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