Chapter Sixteen

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I'm scrubbing the floor like I did all the years ago when Axel arrived

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I'm scrubbing the floor like I did all the years ago when Axel arrived. It's bittersweet.

My back aches shortly into the scrubbing, something I'm going to attribute to my bosom actually growing in. I don't understand why I wanted bigger ones. They're a pain in the back, literally. I'm just thankful it's not hot and muggy. I'd probably fall asleep mid-scrub.

Before I even realize what's happening, hoisted off the ground by my upper arm. It's Axel, and he's dragging me upstairs, his nails digging painfully into my skin.

"You're hurting me, Axel!" He lets go, throwing me to the floor, my current diary flinging at me. Is he seriously mad I wrote to him?

"You can be arrested for writing bad things about the Fuhrer." This I knew. "And addressing them to me connects me to it. I could be arrested."

Of course he only cares about himself.

"Did you overlook everything I wrote to you?" I ask, standing back up, blood starting to run down my arm from where his nails dug in.

"That's not the point-"

I ignore him, going to my locked chest, I open it, pulling out my diaries.

"June 18th, 1938. Dear Mr. Ackermann. I want to become a nurse. Do you think I would be a good one? I wouldn't let you die out on the battlefield, I promise." I read the rest of that entry. "With Love, A German Girl." I fling my first diary at him.

"December 11, 1941..." I fling that diary at him.

"August 1943..." Another diary.

And again and again. He makes no moves to deflect them, his face no longer holding the dark expression. I get to the last diary, the one he flung at me.

"June 1st, 1943," my voice starts to quiver. If he's already read these and his reaction is still to hate me, I truly cannot forgive him. I can't. "Dear Axel. My monthly is late. What do I do? I'm scared. Would you even want it?"

I grip at my dress, skipping a few pages. "June 15, 1943. Dear Axel, my dresses are definitely tighter. I think I'm with child. My mother is going to kill me."

There's tears running down his face now. "Lucy, please stop," he begs, his voice cracking.

I shake my head. He needs to hear this. "June 29th, 1943. Dear Axel, It hurts so bad. I think I'm losing the baby. Or I've already lost it. I don't know. I can't tell anyone. I wish you were here. I'm not strong enough for this. Oh god, make it stop, please." I pause, my chest constricting to the point I can't breathe.

"With Love," I crack. "Your German Girl." I don't throw this diary; I drop it onto the floor. At the same time, Axel drops to his knees, his head bowed.

"I don't blame you for not being here. I blame you for not loving me when you came back."

He doesn't answer me. "Where did you bury it?"

"Underneath the tree."

"I did this. I caused this."

"I think it takes two to make a baby," I tell him, sitting in front of him.

"You don't understand," he gasps almost frantically, pulling at his hair. "You don't understand!" he repeats, though this time it's a low wail.

"Make me understand, Axel."

He's rocking himself now. "They ordered me to. It was either it or me. Or me. I'm so damn selfish."

I'm quiet, letting him continue. "It was crying for its mother. We had already shot her a minute before. But we can't keep the Jews around. Babies grow into adults."

My blood runs cold. No...

"They tasked me with throwing the baby. They were testing me. I could've pretending not to shoot. I was going to. But they made me throw it in the air while they took a shot."

"Axel-"

"I didn't even see it hit the ground. But I heard it. Oh god, I heard it." Full sobs are racking his body. "Please kill me. God, please kill me."

I pull him into my arms like a little kid. He can barely breathe between sobs and the hysteria.

"There's something else, too, I need to tell you."

Oh god, what else?

"Your brother was there."

I close my eyes, taking deep breaths. When I open them, Axel is watching, waiting, for me to say something.

"I don't want to think about our dead baby, or someone else's right now, okay?" He nods, his eyes still traveling down to my stomach. I'm not sure if it's consciously.

"Do you still love me?" He asks. I nod. I don't know why I do. He killed a baby. The Germans are killing babies. Am I even surprised? They are killing Jews and burning their bodies.

"Then let's be married."


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