The image of her haunts me.
Tear stained cheeks and swollen eyes as she pounded at my chest. “Not you too!”
I let her cry, let her hurl pent-up hurt at me, and hugged her for it after. The world was changing, and I was now part of that change.
On the day I held heavy bags over scrawny shoulders, and an even heavier goodbye on my tongue, Hilde’s tears wet my cheeks as she whispered, ‘Promise me you won’t let them change you.’
I promised as I wrapped my arms around her. Promised again as the bus took me away and the Schutzstaffel forced a gun in my hand. I drowned out their propaganda-laced lectures with that promise.
In eleven months, the SS hadn’t waned like I’d hoped. It grew. Exponentially. New recruitment pages filled with signatures of boys and men alike. An army against an enemy that wasn’t.
When I came home, Hilde’s flowerbeds were overgrown and a note rested beneath my pillow.
You made a promise to me, now it’s my turn to you. We will see each other again. I will stay safe. Things will be the way they once were. I promise.
Yours dearly, Hilde.
I threw the note to the floor and screamed into a pillow until my throat ached. Because I had seen what she would be fighting against – heard the rumors of where the movement was going.
I knew that Hilde had made me a promise she simply couldn’t keep.