Hazel and Theo are hiding from the German soldiers who have swarmed throughout Denmark. Their father was a Jew, and was taken away before he could escape to Sweden. Now Hazel and Theo must protect themselves and their mother and try not to get caught, for if they are, they will almost certainly be taken to Germany, which is a death sentence...
Chapter 1: Hazel
The walls of the building where I stayed were hard, simple brick, as was the fireplace nestled in the corner, by which I sat. I enjoyed watching the crackling flames for they almost seemed alive, as if some lava-like creature was dancing in the golden light of fire. The flames cast a flickering, ambient glow over the room.
I leant back on my chair, the basic wood frame slightly uncomfortable, but not to the point where it was bothersome. I had only been sat there a few moments when my mother walked in. She was a tall, scarecrow-thin woman with light blue eyes that were surrounded by dark circles, and deep brown hair. Her skin was pale to the point that sometimes she looked like a walking corpse. She had been acting like one since my father's death. Well, since the Nazis took him away.
"Hello." I muttered absentmindedly, cold even though the fire was warm.
She didin't reply, instead she sat in the chair beside me and rested her head back against the wall. A wave of sadness washed over me. Life hadn't been great on either of us, but I could still move on. Still function. Still live, but my mother was beyond that point. She was too broken. Too hurt. So much so that I wasn't sure if she would ever be the same again.
"Hazel..." She began but trailed off immediantly, as if saying my name had required all the energy she had.
I knew what she meant though, she was worried about us. Despite the heat from the fire, my mother still shivered, yet her forehead had drops of sweat on it, visible in the firelight. Sometimes I wondered if she might have caught some disease at work but there was no way to tell. And even if she had we couldn't afford for her to stop working, nor my brother, nor the other three families who lived in the other rooms of this old, small house.
None of us had enough money for anything, we could barely afford the clothes on our back. We all shared the house as we were all hiding from the Germans, the Nazis. There was one thing all of our families had in common, that was that we all had at least one relative who was Jewish. For me, that was my father.
"Hazel?" I gasped before realising it was only my brother. His dirt streaked face looked tired, aged. He was only 18. "Hazel, is mother okay?" he asked, and I nodded. His face softened a little. "Are you okay?" I nodded again and looked to the dirty floor. Even though the fire was on the room was still dingy and chilly and everything was dirty and dusty.
"Theo," I said. He was giving a small, burnt loaf of bread to our mother. He turned and walked over to me, the floorboards creaking; dust puffed up around his shoes. "Theo, are we going to be okay?" He merely hung his head and walked over to the window. I followed him and he rubbed a small hole in the grime on the glass. It was snowing.
"Look out there, Hazel." he said, looking out at the white bleakness. "When I was young, before you were born I would play in that snow. Every November, on the 11th, father would place a small wooden cross in the snow. He was honouring all the men who fell in the Great War. I suppose he hoped something like that would never happen again. And now it has. He missed the coaches, Hazel, he gave up his place on the transport out of here to Sweden. And now he's gone." He fell silent, and we stood watching the snow for a while. I remembered my father telling me stories of how the winter in Denmark was the most beautiful winter in the world. I remembered playing with Theo in the snow when I was young and he was older, but yet I could not once remember my father and a wooden cross.
Theo turned with a sigh and walked to his bed. Our beds were nothing more than sheets on the floor. I stayed and looked out of the window, watching the night and the snow and wishing I was just not old enough to understand what had happened to father and why he had been taken away. I understood perfectly why the Gemans wanted the Jews and their families; so they could be taken off to places in Germany where the only certainty was death. I wished my father had not been such a selfless man, if only we had all been able to escape to Sweden where God knows it was safer. Now every day we prayed that the Germans did not come. We prayed for our life.
Tears of memory, sadness, hoplessness ran down my face, and I wished that our living place was better, less dirty, less cold. I wished I could work and ease my mother and Theo's job. But I could not, I was only 14. You could only work when you were 16. It was dangerous for them to go and work as well considering Denmark had been overrun by Germans. We were using the fake surname 'Lundstrøm' as our real one, Johansson could be traced back to our father. They had to face the risk or we would have starved. We were in an impossible situation.
I was only waiting for our death sentence.
Chapter 2: Theo
"Theo Lundstrøm!" the German said, his accent dominant. He was making sure we had all turned up to work. Work being in a dirty, cold factory making God knows what. It was hard though, and I was always filthy. Grime on my face and hands and my clothes a grey brown colour. Every day I would go to work, work until my fingers were numb and my face was black and then return home with a loaf of bread for us to eat. I recieved only 20 Krone a week, barely enough to buy bread every day. Work was hard for what we got, and yet I had to work for Hazel's sake.
"Theo Lundstrøm!" His German accent was strong and angry, I knew he wanted something. "You are not working hard enough Lundstrøm. I want to see more working or I will be reducing your pay!"
"Yes sir, sorry sir." I mumbled, knowing better than to argue. I stopped thinking about how badly off we were and started focussing on my job. I was in the part of the production line that bagged up the coal that the miners had mined: I was in a coal factory. All the coal would be shipped back to Germany, we worked for them and recieved little pay for it. Sometimes I stole a couple of lumps near the end of the day for our fire. It was risky, if I got caught then I would have gotten beaten or thrown out of the factory never to return or worse. I dared not think about it.
"Hey Theo," whispered Joren. He worked alongside me, he was a Danish boy whose family were quite a lot better off than mine. He lived with his parents and sisters and he had to work to earn money for himself rather than for his family. He thought my situation was similar, that the Germans had forced my mother out of work so we now both worked for the family. I told him my father died years ago. He didn't seem to suspect that we were in a much worse position than that, nor that like my father, I had become Jewish. I would not let the Germans take his memory away for good.
"Joren, what?" I said, more sharply than intended. He did not notice.
"I was wondering if I could come over to yours tonight, my father wouldn't notice. I'd like to meet your family." I shut my eyes for a second, panicked. I couldn't let him go, nor could I refuse.
"My mother is ill, I'm not sure she'd appreciate it..." I mumbled. We worked appearingly hard as a guard walked past; his boots tapped against the hard floor with a cold, menacing sound. I worked and Joren kept talking in a hushed tone.
"It can't be that bad. Come on, Theo, just once?" I shook my head. I had to protect my family and no way was this upper-middle class boy coming into our house and seeing that I lied all along. "Theo." His voice dropped into a low whisper. "I know you've been lying to me, I followed you home one day." The blood drained from my face. "I noticed your tattoo a few days ago as well, I know what you are."
"Please leave me alone, Joren." I whispered weakly. I felt sick to the core.
"I can help. My father helped move... them across the country. Please, Theo, let me help you." I shook my head. How was this happening? I had been careful to get the Star on the back of my shoulder where no-one would look.
"Stop, please stop. I can't..." My hands started shaking, and a piece of coal clattered to the floor. I quickly picked it up, and fortunately no guards came over. "What do you want?"
"I want to help you. Trust me, I can help all your family." I took a shaky breath in. A loud bell tolled, the end of the work day. It was about half past six, and we had been working since about half past six this morning. The night shift men filed in as we shuffled out, tired and black with coal dust.
Joren was following me. I turned and shouted "What do you want?" He did not flinch.
"Theo, I know you are protecting your family but I can help. My father-"
"I don't care about your father! I don't care about you or your help! I can help myself, and I have to every single day. My sister is starving to death, my mother hasn't been right since father died and none of us have had proper shelter or meals for months. How can you have any idea how hard it is?" I fell to my knees in the snow; I was exhausted and overworked, I was too tired to fight anymore.
Joren offered me his hand, and after a moment I took it, already shamed and embarassed. "Come on." he said quietly, and I didn't fight any more. I just hoped that we really could trust him.
Our lives could be in his hands now.
Chapter 3: Hazel
"Theo what are you doing! Who is this? How could you?" I screamed and tried to launch myself at this man who had come inside our house. Theo grabbed me and pulled me away. I screamed and cried, how could he have brought a stranger home when he knew perfectly well that it could destroy our albeit shaky saftey.
"Hazel, it's okay, I promise." I glared at him, stopped fighting so he released me and went to sit in my chair next to the fire. I glared at the strange man. He looked about Theo's age, but much more middle class, he wasn't wearing rags like we were.
"Why are you working at a coal factory? You look far too middle class to be that cheap." I said rudely, not caring that Theo shot me a Hazel-don't-be-rude! glare.
"Hazel! This is Joren and he is trustworthy, I promise. We're going outside into the garden . If Mother gets home..." He stopped, but I knew what he meant. I nodded, still glaring suspiciously as they left. I heard the door shut with a thunk and let out a sob, leaning back against the wall. What on Earth was he thinking? How could he have the nerve? He knew just as well as I that most of teh middle class people were working for the Germans, so either that Joren was lying about his class or he was a spy to try and rid of all the Jews. I suspected it to be the latter.
The door downstairs opened with a clunk (clunk to open, thunk to shut). I thought it might be Mother, so I wiped my eyes and sliced some bread for her. I heard a set of boots clomping up the stairs, so I sighed with vague relief and sat back in my chair waiting for Theo and his new friend to appear again.
The door to our room was thrown open, slamming off the wall with a bang, making dust blow up in a large puff. I screamed. What were they doing? The dust cleared. My mouth dropped open and a sob escaped me. No, no, no, no.
"Theo!" I screamed. Where was he? "Theo, help me!" The Germans were here and they were not intending to let us go. Three swamed into our room and I heard screams and shouts from the other families. "Theo! Theo please!" I screamed again, sobbing. One of the Germans raised their gun at me and shouted something. I was too scared and shaking to understand.
"Hazel, move!" I heard and fell to the floor without thinking, The window behind me shattered and I screamed again. "Hazel, jump!" Theo. I had to get to Theo. I crawled to the window and coughed, hands bleeding and shaking, glass crunching under my knees. There was a large hole in the window and a fracture line running along all the glass that remained. I looked out of the hole to see Theo standing shouting up at me. His mouth was moving. I looked down. I hoped there was a lot of snow down there, because if I were to jump to my escape I didn't want it to be in vain.
I put my foot on the windowsill and felt the wood creak and crumble slightly. I knew it was damp and rotting, you could smell it. Aware of pain in my cheek I rubbed my hand over it and shards of glass tumbled to the floor. A bead of blood rolled down my fingers. I grasped the sharp edges of the broken window. I had to decide. I felt the glass cutting into my palms and and breathed in sharply. If I jumped, cut palms would likely be the least thing I would think about. Theo was shouting and waving at me, but I couldn't hear him. He suddenly looked up at me with sadness and worry and ran ino the snow. I saw where he went and knew the Germans were coming for him.
"Halt!" Behind me a German shouts. I heard his loud boots clomp against the hard wood. Now or never.
"Jump Hazel! Hurry!" Theo shouted from afar. I had a brief thought for Mother. She would be caught by now. To death or freedom. To hide and be hunted.
Chapter 4: Hazel
Shouts all around me. I hit the snow hard, and it poofed up around me, blocking my vision for a moment. Pain shot through my leg, There were German shouts from above me, Theo shouted at me to hurry. My head span. I forced myself to my feet, blinked and moved my legs; I had to think about it. I ran forwards, towards Theo and that traitor. I knew it was him who had given us away, who else could it have been? How could Theo have trusted a stranger?
None of that mattered right now, I just had to escape and get to Theo. He was stood, waiting, arms outstretched for me. I could hear him shouting for me to run and not look back. I did. He caught me and made me face him.
"We did it Haze. We escaped." I breathed out heavily and smiled a little. We had our lives, and knowing our family background, knowing my father, we were fortunate. Then it hit me that we'd left mother behind.
"Mother," I whispered. Theo grabbed me to stop me turning around.
"Hazel, don't." I thrashed around in his arms and kicked him, making him let go of me. I span around to see blazing orange heat spewing from our house.
"No!" I screamed. I went to run back but Theo grabbed my arms firmly. I pulled and pulled, I needed to get back, I needed to get our mother out. We couldn't just leave her to the evil of the Nazis. I'd heard where they'd taken the Jews and their families, I knew a little about the Concentration Camps. Out of all I'd heard, all I knew for certain was that no-one ever came back at all.
"Theo please, they're burning our house! Mother is in there! She'll die Theo, please-" Theo put himself in front of me, face hard and voice firm.
"She's dead Hazel. And so will we be if we go back. We need to run, and we need to run now. Don't think I'm heartless, I'm not. But there will be time for grief later. Right now, we need to focus on having our lives and holding onto them as firmly as we can, and not letting go. Because now, if we slip, if we don't focus, if we lose ourselves in grief and pity then we're as good as dead. We will die if we don't keep our heads. You're all I have now Hazel, and I am not losing you. Do you understand me?" His voice softened a little at the end. I could see now that he was heartbroken, and I suddenly felt guilty for wanting to put our lives back into danger. Because he was right.
I nodded and he let go of me. "Come on," he said simply, and took my hand.
We ran through the woods for hours, only stopping because dusk was falling fast. "We'll camp here." announced Theo, planting himself under a large, overhanging tree. I went and sat next to him and looked up to see Joren still stood there.
"What the hell is he doing here still?" I jumped to my feet. Theo started to tell me to stop but I cut him off, too angry to listen. "You! It's all your fault this happened! I bet you're working for them! You're probably tracking us and ready to take us away!" I launched myself at him and pushed him to the ground. I punched him in the face, chest, wherever. I couldn't see straight. He didn't fight back, as if he wanted me to hurt him. I didn't care. "Without you mother would still be alive!" Theo pulled me off then, hugging me tightly. The tears came out as sobs now as I cried into my brother.
After the sobs turned to gentle tears, Theo sat me down with him. Joren was sat up now too. "It's okay, Hazel. I promise you, Joren isn't out to get us. It's not his fault."
"I'm sorry." Joren said. I had no idea what he was apologising for, but I didn't care. I still didn't trust him. But Theo did, and I didn't want to piss him off.
"No, Joren, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you that badly, I was upset and angry and..." I trailed off, not knowing what to say. Theo nodded slightly and a smile touched his lips. I knew I'd made him happy, and I was glad.