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Continued from: The Bicycle

After about five minutes, a French soldier approached and very politely asked, in German, how to get to the Marktplatz. Naturally, I responded in German. Then he grabbed my hand and pleaded, ‘Come, dear, show me please.’ His uniform frightening me. Although I went to a French school and spoke some French, France was the occupying power in Germany. We never knew quite what to expect from them. It was nearly dark and I couldn’t get a good look into his eyes. My stomach lurched and saliva pooled in my mouth as he pulled me back in the direction from which I’d just come. I needed to get home before it was completely dark or Father would hit the roof, but here I was, going in the opposite direction.

Without releasing his grip on my hand, a piece of candy magically appeared in his other hand. He seemed too eager. Something just felt wrong. Struggling to free my hand, I murmured, in French now, ‘Aucuns merci vous. Je ne peux pas. J’ai besoin d’obtenir aller.’ No thank you, I can’t. I must be going.

My mother was really frightened. Here was a uniformed adult pulling her along in the opposite direction from home. Good manners had been drilled in: children must always be polite to adults. He wore the uniform of authority. What to do? She stopped short of physically resisting him. That was just not done.

The man dragged me along till we got to a barracks building where he stopped and jiggled the door but it was locked. He jerked me further down the street to an apartment building with a courtyard. The next thing I knew he’d pushed me into a really dark corner and his hands began sliding over my clothes, looking for a way in or under. He pressed his rough face down against mine, reeking of rancid fat and ashtrays. I forced down bile that bubbled up the back of my throat, and began struggling in earnest. I screamed and kicked at him, jerking and pulling to free my hands, as by now, he had both of them in one of his hands. I heard the buttons on my blouse hit the cobblestones. Time, that a few minutes before had been fleeing like a runaway horse, now stalled like a bicycle on a steep hill. His free hand plunged under my skirt and slithered up the inside of my thigh and his German dissolved into French. ‘Fermer! Chienne’ Shut up! Bitch! This really infuriated me and I screamed all the louder and fought like a wild Indian.

One bit of providence prevailed that day; a German man appeared at one of the apartment windows above the courtyard and inquired about the ruckus. The distracted soldier momentarily loosened his grip on the hellion writhing in his hands, allowing her to slip loose and dash back towards the trolley line. Adrenaline-powered, she leaped onto a moving trolley headed in the direction of home. The trolley slowed at the base of a hill near her house before heading off in another direction. She jumped off at this point and trudged slowly up the hill in the dark. Her stomach was churning and her knees were knocking. Her heart had slowed to half of its earlier pace, but it still ticked hard against her chest. She stood at the steps for a minute, trying to settle her nerves, then quietly crept in the back door, hoping to avoid the immediate wrath of her father.

Disappearing into her bedroom, she changed her torn clothes, combed her hair, and vigorously scrubbed her hands and face before she came to the dinner table where she sat, stunned and subdued. As luck would have it, her Mother was out that evening. Her father’s anger at her tardiness was tempered by the recognition that something wasn’t right with his little Girlie. He questioned her throughout the meal. She picked at her food and evaded his questions but eventually it all spilled out.