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Kindred Spirits, Distant Hearts. Chapter 4.
By
AnnaMayZing

Kindred Spirits, Distant Hearts. Chapter 4.

“So why do I feel so empty inside?”

Berlin. April 28th, 1941

 

Katarina was awakened suddenly by the incessant wailing of an Air Raid siren.

The first bombing raid on Berlin had been the previous August, during the height of what later became known as the Battle of Britain. Until that day, Herr Hitler had refrained from bombing towns and cities and had concentrated his efforts on the destruction of Britain's airfields.

It was during one such raid that one, or maybe more of the Luftwaffe force became lost and released its payload before turning for home. Unfortunately, these bombs fell on a suburb of London which prompted Mr. Churchill to retaliate with an attack on Berlin.

That raid was fairly ineffectual, but it so enraged the Führer that the English would dare to carry out such an attack against his capital that he ordered his own Air Force, the Luftwaffe to attack British cities.

The result was more raids on German cities.

 

She had been aware of this but, since she had been in France for the latter half of that year, had only heard the reports on the radio. Night after night, she had seen and heard the heavily laden aeroplanes pass over on their way to London and she remembered the airman that Maria had told her about who had been shot down but now she was home, and the incessant wailing was screaming inside her weary head.

She looked at the small clock beside her bed, the luminous green glow of its hands indicating it was a few minutes past midnight.

“Katarina! Come on!” she heard her father calling and rubbed her gritty eyes.

“Coming, Papa,” she called back and got out of bed to follow her parents down to the basement of the apartment block, grabbing her robe as she went.

 

As they waited with all the other residents for the 'all clear' to sound, one of them asked her father why the English didn't seem to do any particular damage and yet here they were, sheltering again from nothing.

“You have to understand,” he told the man, “When our Luftwaffe fly to England, to London and other cities, they are able to fly from France, just a few kilometres away, but the English are not flying to attack France. They have to fly thousands of kilometres to reach Berlin and to get home, as well as, flying over our homeland which is very well defended indeed. So you have no need to worry. This is just a precaution against the possibility that some may get through.”

The man, whose was unknown to Katarina, remained sceptical.

“So what happened to all the promises of the English being defeated then? Eighteen months since they declared war on us and yet, we are still skulking in the basement!”

Katarina knew he was treading on very thin ice by questioning the government in this way and she was about to speak up, when a thought occurred to her. What if it was a trap?

She knew the Gestapo were watching her and her family and since the incident, with the Metzler's last year, she could take any chances, so she kept her thoughts to herself.

When she glanced at her father, he smiled and nodded his approval, as he could almost see the turmoil in her mind.

Another voice rose above the others.

“And you, Miss Langsdorff, where have you been for the past months?”

Katarina peered through the gloom to see who it was, who had asked such a question.

She was about to answer when she felt her father's hand grip her own.

She paused for a moment, considering her reply.

“Don't you know?” she said eventually. “I have made no secret of it.”

The woman continued probing.

“I have heard that you have been away fighting the war, but aren't you a nurse?”

Katarina turned to her father.

“Who is she, Papa? I don't recognise her.”

Siegfried looked grave and leaned closer to her to whisper quietly.

“That, my dear is Frau Hofstadter. She is the new concierge.”

Katarina was confused

New concierge? What happened to the one who replaced Frau Muller?”

Siegfried shrugged.

“I don't know, so just be careful what you say.”

She looked back at the inquisitive woman.

“I'm sorry, I don't believe we have met. If you knew me, then you would know that I am a matron with the Red Cross. I don't fight wars. My job is to care for those who need me whether from fighting wars or just plain sick!”

“Oh, but I do know you, Miss Langsdorff. I know that you appeared in the middle of the night a couple of weeks ago and seemed to be in considerable pain.”

The basement was deathly silent as the other inhabitants waited to see what the outcome of this obvious challenge would be.

Katarina stared at her inquisitor, lips pursed and tongue held firmly between her teeth. She chose her words carefully.

“I am sure, Frau...”

She paused, giving her anonymous assailant the opportunity to identify herself, but when no name was offered, she continued.

“I am sure, that if you really wanted to know where I have been, you could quite easily find out from...”

Her father gripped her hand again, more urgently this time and shook his head.

At the same time, the quiet was shattered by the wailing of the all clear siren and immediately people headed for the stairway, cutting short any further confrontation.

 

Back in their apartment, Katarina asked her father why Frau Hofstadter was so inquisitive and suspicious.

“I imagine, she is being pressured for information. Ever since that business last year, there has been someone watching from time to time. They can't be there every hour of every day, so I imagine that she is their eyes and ears just as Frau Muller was.”

“I thought as much, Papa. When I went to bed the night I returned home; I saw a man watching. I think he knew I saw him.”

Her mother sighed with resignation.

“They don't make any secret of it, Sweetheart. They know, we are aware, but they cannot act without firm evidence. Your father's position holds them back, and they have to be sure.”

Katarina took a deep breath.

“This is no way to live, Mama. No way at all.”

Her father agreed.

“No, you are right, it isn't, but we can't change it. I am afraid, we just have to be careful not to antagonise anyone and give them an excuse. Now, off to bed and we will see you in the morning.”

“All right. Goodnight again, Mama, Papa.”

She kissed her parents and returned to her room, but found that sleep was not forthcoming and she lay awake for some time, her thoughts just churning around in her head and, eventually, she decided that she could not stay in the flat any longer. In the morning she would visit Doctor Kruger at the hospital and see if he would sign her as fit to return to duty.

 

The sun rose brightly that morning. Katarina looked at the clock then threw back the blankets and climbed out of bed.

Although her sleep had been broken, she still woke just after six, as she generally did, so she headed for the kitchen and lit the stove to make a pot of coffee.

As she prepared the cups for all of them, ready for when her parents appeared, she heard the door creak gently behind her.

“Good morning, Sweetheart.”

“Good morning, Papa,” she replied without turning around. “Didn't you sleep well?”

Siegfried Langsdorff pulled out a chair from the table and sat down.

“Not really,” he sighed. “It is difficult to sleep with so much worry.”

Katarina left the coffee to heat and sat beside her father.

“What is it, Papa? What's wrong?”

“What isn't more like,” he replied. “I am afraid, Katarina.”

Katarina didn't need an explanation. Everyone was afraid these days. No-one dared speak in case they were misunderstood and reported to the authorities, and each was suspicious of the other. The air was heavy with distrust and oppression.

“Of anything in particular or just generally, like everyone else?” she asked carefully.

Siegfried gave a wry smile.

“Oh, just about everything really, but some things more than others. What are your plans today, Liebchen?”

“I am going to ask Martin to declare me fit to work again.”

“Is that wise?” he asked. “That was quite a serious wound you had.”

“Papa, I can't stay cooped up inside any longer. As much as I like being with you and Mama, there are people out there who need my help. I can't stay here all day with so much going on.”

Her father smiled and gently laughed.

“Nothing will keep you down for long, will it?”

“No, Papa, nothing will. It has been almost six weeks now since my injury, and I need to work.”

No, Katarina, it is little over five weeks,” her father corrected. “Do you really think that Doctor Kruger will allow you back so soon. You still have pain.”

“I don't, not really, Papa. Just the odd twinge.”

“Then tell this, little Miss Eager. As Doctor Kruger said if you were treating a patient with the same wound...?”

“But Papa...”

As she spoke, the coffee pot on the stove began to boil, and she twisted quickly to turn down the heat. The sudden motion sent a sharp pain through her abdomen, and she gasped involuntarily.

Siegfried grabbed her suddenly and supported her.

“There, you see?” he said, as she sat slowly down on the chair. “You can't work like that. It wouldn't be fair to you and certainly not for your patients.”

Katarina breathed out slowly and allowed herself to slump forward onto the table for a moment.

“You are right, Papa. I suppose it is too soon.”

Siegfried poured two cups of coffee and then sat with her, placing one in front of her.

“Is it so bad being at home with us?”

Katarina sat back and placed her hand on his on the table top.

“You know it isn't, Papa. You also know me. You know only too well that I can't just sit and do nothing. I need to work.”

Her father lifted the steaming cup to his lips, but stopped short before taking a sip.

“Is that all that is troubling you, Sweetheart?”

Holding her own cup in both hands but not lifting it from the table, Katarina let her gaze linger on the hot, brown liquid.

“No,” she whispered.

“Do you want to tell me?”

“I don't know, Papa. It is really strange.”

Siegfried looked at his daughter with sadness. He did know her very well, of course.

He understood her eagerness to get out again and back to normal, and he also understood her frustration with her life in general, during such difficult times. More, though, he could tell that there was something deeper troubling her and he had a fair idea of what it might be.

He didn't press her for an answer though.

“You don't need to tell me, Sweetheart. All I will say is that you can tell your mother and me anything you wish and we will do whatever we can to support you.”

Katarina's lips moved very slightly to give a thin smile.

“I know, Papa. It isn't that I don't want to tell you, but it's strange, you know? It's a feeling I don't really understand. I feel so helpless.”

Siegfried remained quiet. If Katarina was going to tell him, she was going to do it at her own pace, and he didn't want to push her along.

Suddenly, she sat up straight and stared at her father.

“Papa. You and Mama know me better than anyone, yes?”

He nodded and let her continue.

“Right. So you know I am independent and always do what I believe to be right, that I don't need anyone else.”

It was a statement rather than a question, and Siegfried remained silent, listening.

“So, why do I feel so empty inside?”

Again, Siegfried waited.

“I don't get it, Papa. Why do I miss Maria so? Why do I feel that a part of me has been torn away? She is just a friend. Nothing has happened to her, and we can write to each other so what is wrong with me? Why do I miss her so?”

 

At that moment, a creaking floorboard made them both turn towards the door.

“I thought I heard voices,” Katarina's mother said from the doorway, and as she stepped into the kitchen, she addressed her husband.

“I think that maybe now is the time, Siegfried.”

Katarina looked at her father and then up at her mother.

She felt there was tension between them.

“Time for what?” she asked carefully, suddenly   fearful.

Magda Langsdorff walked across to the stove and poured herself a hot cup then turned and freshened both her husband and daughter's cups.

Katarina watched her, waiting impatiently.

“Time for what, Mama?” she asked again then turned to her father. “Papa?”

Magda sat down at the table across from her husband, who looked sadly at her.

“We think that the time has come to tell something we had hoped we would never have to.”

Katarina was afraid now, and her heart was pounding so fast she could hardly breathe.

Siegfried took a deep breath.

“Katarina, whatever you may think of us, you must know that your mother and I love you very much. More than anything, in fact. We would both give our lives for you, if we had to.”

“Papa! You are frightening me. What has happened?”

“Promise me, promise us, Katarina, that you know we love you with all our hearts.”

Katarina looked from her father to her mother and back again. Both seemed to be afraid of something, something very serious.

“Yes, yes, Papa, I never doubted it, but what is wrong? Tell me! Please!”

Siegfried looked at his wife. Like his own, her eyes were filled with tears and worry.

“Y...your mother and...” he paused, struggling to find the words through the fog that was clogging his mind suddenly. “...and I. We... we're not...”

Magda, seeing his distress, took a deep breath herself and finished his sentence.

“We... are... not your real p... parents,” she said, her lower lip trembling violently.

A tear fell from her eye and splashed onto the wooden surface of the table.

There was a heavy silence, as Katarina struggled to comprehend what she had just been told. Her eyes darted from one to the other and back and forth. She felt as though her chest was being crushed under an enormous pressure and she couldn't breathe. Of all the things she had imagined in those few seconds, heart problem, cancer, an imminent death, she could not have foreseen that!

“I... I don't understand, Mama. What do you mean you are not my real parents? Of course, you are. How can you not be?”

Magda took her hand.

“No, Sweetheart. We raised you as our own and loved you just as much, as if you were, but no, we are not.”

Katarina could make no sense of what she was hearing and turned to her beloved father.

“Papa, please. Tell me what you mean. I think I must have misunderstood.”

“No, Liebchen, you haven't. Your mother and I have dreaded this moment, and we hoped you would never need to find out but things have happened, and now we cannot keep it from you any longer.”

Her eyes were darting from one to the other, Katarina felt crushed. She had almost stopped breathing, and her heart was thumping so hard she felt it must surely explode.

She wanted to ask so many questions, but not a single one would manifest itself inside her spinning head.

With trembling hands, she lifted the coffee cup to her mouth and took a mouthful of the now cool liquid.

This small action gave her a moment to pull herself together and gather her thoughts, and when she lowered the cup, it rattled loudly upon the saucer until she released it.

Her parents sat in silence with their heads bowed giving her a moment.

She stared at them until, as though through a haze she heard her own voice seemingly from afar, asking slowly,

“If you are not my biological parents then who...”

She wasn't sure whether she had spoken aloud or just thought the question, but her father answered almost immediately.

“You have met your real father, Katarina although you didn't know it at the time.”

Katarina was puzzled.

“Please Papa,” she begged, “Don't make me guess...”

“You told us about the train journey to Taranto, and you said how pleased you were to meet Maria's father and how nice he was...”

“Well, yes, Papa, he was but...”

She stopped suddenly and slowly raised her hand to her mouth,

“Are you saying...?”

Her eyes opened wide as the realisation hit her.

Her parents remained silent, moist-eyed and heartbroken.

“Oh my Lord!”

The words high-pitched and tremulous as she suddenly broke down, the tears cascading down her cheeks.

“Then... then Maria is...”

She couldn't finish the question, the huge lump in her throat causing the words to seize before she could utter them.

It was Siegfried who summoned the courage to finish it.

“Your twin sister, yes.”

 

It was all too much, and Katrina suddenly jumped up, her chair falling onto its back and ran from the room to her bedroom where she fell onto her bed and sobbed heartily, her mind in so much turmoil that she couldn't think of anything at all.

Magda pushed her chair back and went to stand, to go after her but her, husband put his hand on her arm and held her firmly.

“Give her a minute or two,” he said sadly. “It has been a shock. Let her calm down in her own time.”

Magda slumped back and then fell sideways to rest her head on her husband's shoulder.

“What have we done, Siegfried? She will hate us.”

Siegfried stroked his wife's dark hair and held her tightly.

“No, My Love, she won't. We gave her the best chance in life, but we always knew that this day might come. We couldn't have known that the fates would bring them together. Can you imagine what she might have thought, if we hadn't told her and she found out some other way?”

Magda turned her face into her husband's shoulder and sobbed gently, oblivious to his own teardrops which rolled down his cheeks and fell into her hair.

 

The shock of the revelation took a few minutes to sink in and slowly Katarina dried her eyes and sat up on the side of the bed.

She had a million questions to ask, but they were all tangled up and indistinct. The one thing she did know, however, was that she hadn't lost her parents and they obviously still loved her but, and it was a big but, now she had a sister! A twin sister!

 

She had no idea how long she had been, but when she returned to the kitchen, her Papa and Mama were still sitting where she had left them except that Mama was now in Papa's arms.

“I, I...”

Still, the words evaded her.

Magda and Siegfried both looked up at her with moist reddened eyes, then stood up and held their arms out to her.

Immediately, she ran to them.

“I'm so sorry, My sweet child,” her mother said as they hugged each other tightly.

“Mama, I'm sorry too,” Katarina replied.

“You have nothing to be sorry for, Sweetheart,” her father reassured her. “It was a shock, I know, but we could not see any other way of telling you.”

Katarina thought for a moment, then asked,

“Does Maria know?”

“I... I don't know,” her father answered. “I wrote to her parents to let them know that we had to tell you, but we haven't had a reply as yet.”

Siegfried looked thoughtful before adding,

“It is different for her though. She is their daughter, but as far as we can tell, she doesn't know she has a sister.”

Suddenly, Katarina clutched her stomach and winced at the sudden pain.

Her parents helped her to sit down.

“Are you all right?” her mother asked fearfully, “I will call the hospital.”

Katarina grabbed her arm.

“No, Mama, I am all right. It is only aching because of the crying and the sudden movements.”

She paused for a moment and then forced a sad smile.

“Perhaps, if Papa could make some fresh coffee, now that the initial shock has passed, you can tell me about it.”

Siegfried nodded and turned towards the stove, but before he could take a step, Katarina stopped him and held out her hands to him and Magda.

“Whatever the reason, I still love you just the same.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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