Chapter Twenty Three

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May 1st, 1945

I pin the last of Irene's newly blackened hair for an curly bun.

"I can't believe I'm getting married," she says, fingering her updo gingerly in admiration.

"I just can't believe it's to my brother. It still feels like he's fourteen, complaining to Father about not enlisting."

"So you're still going to America?" Irene brings up, changing the subject.

I nod to her in the mirror. "But only to meet his mother and have her meet Anja. We aren't staying since he is no longer a threat to us."

"The people at the camp will miss you," Irene says. For the last three weeks, I have been helping the people at the prisoner camp, helping them get back on their feet—literally in some cases.

Anja takes that moment to let out a hungry wail. I groan, undoing my dress again, then going to pick her up to latch onto me.

When I finally get her satisfied, I close my clothes up again and Irene, Anja, and I go downstairs and outside to where a Rabbi is waiting. To not be insensitive, but I didn't think there would be any left.

Anja pulls on my hair throughout most of the ceremony, finally pausing when Fredrick and Irene kiss. She continues her onslaught right after. I should've put it up.

"I remember this dress," Axel whispers in my ear, looking down at my red dress.

"Yes, it was the night you defiled a poor innocent young girl and left her pregnant," I tease him. He rolls his eyes, going behind me and wrapping Anja and I into a protective embrace.

"You know," I say, trying to bring it up casually. "We haven't celebrated our one year anniversary yet."

He nibbles on my earlobe, tickling Anja's feet right after, causing her to giggle. "I rented a hotel room, the same one from our honeymoon. We gotta give Anja a little brother now."

I smack him. "Anja is only five months old. Let her enjoy being the only child for a bit."

"I'm just teasing, Luce. I already know Anja is going to be a handful."

"A spoiled handful," I correct him. "Everybody lets her get away with everything. It's why I have no hair left."

Anja takes a pause to babble, as if to argue with me. She definitely is my child.

I almost drop her when she reaches for Peter, who's currently on the ground eating grass. Sighing, I set her down beside my godson. "Go crazy. Grass is natural."

Axel turns me around, kissing me slowly, then winking after pulling back. "Can't wait for tonight." Then, he's gone to go to Adam and Fredrick.

"Adam bought me a hotel night, too, and so did Fredrick for Irene," Genie says, coming up beside me.

"I'd rather just go nude swimming in our river, to be honest," I say, leaning down to pull dirt out of Anja's mouth.

"When did my friend get so bold? That's my job!" We both crack up together.

"Remember that schedule for the second baby?" Genie asks after calming down.

"Yes?" I raise an eyebrow.

"You're already running behind."



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