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Kindred Spirits, Distant hearts. Chapter 5.
By
AnnaMayZing

Kindred Spirits, Distant hearts. Chapter 5.

“I have done nothing wrong so why do I have to be afraid?”

Munchen-Pasing. April 29th, 1941

 

Monday morning dawned but no sun was visible. Although not cold, the sky was grey and threatened rain.

It didn't matter to Maria, though. She had risen at six, as she always did and had prepared breakfast for her parents and wished her father goodbye as he left for work an hour later.

Now, whilst her mother was dressing, she sat alone in the kitchen with a folder of documents open in front of her.

 

For the past two weeks, ever since the young policeman had warned her, she had expected a visit from the security services.

Yesterday, she thought the time had arrived when they were disturbed by an urgent rapping at the front door.

Her father went to answer it, and Maria and her mother had waited with bated breath until he reappeared, surprisingly alone.

He was holding a large envelope which he passed directly to his daughter.

“It was just a messenger,” he said, the relief obvious.

Both Maria and her mother, Anna breathed a sigh of relief, and Maria took the grey envelope.

“I have done nothing wrong so why do I have to be afraid?” she asked to no-one but herself.

Her father shrugged.

“It is the world we live in, Sweetheart. The authorities like fear, it keeps the population from turning against them I suppose.”

“I suppose so,” Maria agreed as she unwound the string holding the flap of the envelope closed.

Inside was a grey folder with the usual Nazi eagle symbol on the front cover and a large red cross below it. The panel beneath was filled in with her name, Maria Kaufmann and her rank, Matron.

 

Now, whilst she sat alone, she perused the documents.

There was nothing to surprise her within them since they were not unexpected. She had been to the Ludwig Maximilian hospital three or four times to visit her friends and to keep up to date with events there and she had been informed that, even though she had not reached North Africa, her posting was still active.

The authorities allowed her a period of rest and recovery before her reassignment to the war front once she had been deemed fit for duty after a thorough medical assessment on her first visit.

Although several kilogrammes lighter, she had not suffered any permanent physical damage from her ordeal.

She had even been asked about recurring nightmares, and the doctors were surprised to hear that after the first few days aboard the warship she had not had any.

They had been quite impressed and agreed that it was because of her strength of character that she had been able to overcome the psychological effects of the trauma of being shipwrecked.

 

Now, though, the time was fast approaching for her to leave once again and retrace her footsteps towards the hot arid desert region that was Libya.

Reading through the documents, she was pleased to discover that, unlike the previous attempt, this time she would be flying all the way to Tripoli.

She was to board the aeroplane at Munich on Thursday from where she would fly to Rome. There they would be collecting medical supplies from the Italians and then on to Tripoli.

Guessing from her experience, she surmised that Germany did not control the sea but it seemed likely that since the attack on the British ship came from the air with apparent impunity then maybe the Luftwaffe controlled the air.

Maria had absolutely no idea whether that was the case or not but it made her feel a little safer and so she maintained that train of thought.

 

The house was quiet as she turned the pages. Her mother was upstairs dusting the bedrooms.

They had already changed the bed linen and washed the soiled sheets together and Maria had hung them outside to dry in the warm spring air. There was a light breeze and they reasoned that the sheets would not take too long to dry.

She closed the folder and then went to the bottom of the stairs.

“Mama!” she called up, “Would you like some coffee?”

“No thank you, Dear,” came the slightly muffled reply from the depths of her parent's room. “I shall finish here first.”

“All right. I am going to write to Katarina then. Let me know when you are ready.”

There was a sudden and unexpected thump from upstairs.

“Mama?” Maria called up, suddenly concerned. “Are you all right?”

“Oh, erm, yes, yes I am. Sorry. I dropped something.”

Maria frowned. Her mother sounded suddenly different. Her voice sounded worried somehow.

“Are you sure, Mama?” she called up, her foot on the first step ready to run up.

“Yes, Darling, I told you, I'm fine. A book slipped out of my hand.”

As she spoke, Anna appeared at the top of the staircase.

She was smiling abut looked nervous and her apology sounded forced but Maria didn't want to push her so she left it at that.

 

In the living room, Maria opened the small drawer in the sideboard and took out some paper, an envelope and a pen, which she carefully filled with ink before returning to the kitchen to sit at the table.

 

My dearest Katarina.

She wrote carefully so not to smudge the blue ink.

I hope that this letter finds you well.

I have missed you so much since we parted and I have thought of you daily.

I trust that you are taking good care of yourself and that your wound is healing well.

I have had a good rest, but now I am to return to...

 

She paused, the nib of her pen hovering above the page as she considered whether she should actually write where she was going.

They had been so insistent at Karlsruhe that the destination was to remain secret that maybe she should not and so, returning the nib to the paper, wrote instead,

 

...the destination we failed to reach together.

It won't be the same without you there by my side, but it is far too soon for you to be even thinking about doing anything that could set your recovery back.

I want you to know that even though you won't be there, you most certainly will be in my heart and I hope that, when I return I shall be able to come and visit you in Berlin.

Please write back soon and let me know how you are.

I miss your company so much.

Your loving friend

Maria.

 

She very carefully read through what she had written.

It didn't seem very much, but she didn't know what else to say since there wasn't a great deal to tell.

For the past two weeks, she had not really done anything, and nothing had happened that warranted telling her about.

Finally, she sighed and blotted the still wet page being very careful not to smudge it and then took out an envelope and wrote,

 

An Frau K. Langsdorff...

Again the pen hovered above the paper whilst she tried to remember the address.

Potsdammer Strasse was all that came to mind, so she left the letter on the table and went up to her room to find it.

As she passed her parent's bedroom door, she glanced inside and was surprised to see her mother sitting on the edge of the bed completely motionless. She was just staring at the floor with her hands clasped in her lap.

“Mama?” she asked, stepping inside. “What is the matter. Is something wrong?”

Anna looked up, shrugged and sighed.

Maria could see she was struggling with something in her head, something she didn't seem to be able to tell her about, so she sat gently beside her on the bed.

“Are you or Papa sick? You can tell me, you know.”

Her mother shook her head sadly.

“No, sweetheart, neither of us are sick.”

“Then what is it, Mama? I can see something is troubling you.”

Before her mother could reply, the front door opened and closed and her Papa called out,

“I'm home.”

Anna jumped to her feet and quickly headed for the stairs with Maria close behind her.

 

They found Herman in the kitchen. He was standing by the table looking down at Maria's letter.

“I'm sorry, Maria,” he said, suddenly looking up at his daughter. “I didn't realise what it was.”

Maria smiled.

“That's all right, Papa. It's not a secret, just a short letter to Katarina.”

She paused, seeing him glance quickly at her mother.

“Papa, there is something not right here. Something is troubling Mama, and she won't tell me what it is. Is it because I have to go back to Africa?”

Again, Herman looked at Anna and, for a moment they seemed to be communicating silently. Maria could see it and she was getting worried. She was about to insist that one of them tell her but her father spoke before she could utter a word.

“You had better sit down, Liebchen.”

Maria did as she was bid, closely followed by her mother and, finally her father who looked again at the handwritten letter on the table.

The air had suddenly become so oppressive that Maria found it difficult to breathe, taking just shallow breaths and sitting absolutely still. She didn't know why but her heart was pounding, maybe with the fear of anticipation that she was about to learn something terrible.

Herman inhaled deeply and began.

“Maria, Sweetheart,” he said slowly and thoughtfully. “I don't know how even to begin to tell you this but the time has come.”

“Time, Papa? Time for what?”

Her head was spinning with all the grave possibilities. Was her mother telling the truth? Was one of them sick? Was she going to lose one of her parents, The endless possibilities were causing a knot to form in the pit of her stomach.

Herman could see the fear in her face.

“It's about your friend, Katarina.”

“Katarina? What about her?”

Now she was very confused. Her father had met her only once, on the train to Taranto and that was only for a few minutes. How could he possibly have something to say about her, unless...

“Papa,” she said very slowly. “Have you heard something from her or her parents?”

“Heard from...?” a pause. “There is something I have to tell you, that we have to tell you. Katarina is, is...”

“Is what, Papa? Is she sick again? Please tell me she is not...”

“Oh my Lord this is so hard to say.”

Maria stared hard at him.

“Just say it, Papa, please! You are killing me!”

“Katarina is your sister, Sweetheart. Your twin sister!”

Maria turned suddenly to her mother, eyes wide and mouth opening and closing, trying to form words that just wouldn't.

Anna remained motionless, looking directly at her daughter, despairing at the distress they were causing her. Tears welled in her eyes and ran down her cheeks.

“I'm sorry,” she whispered.”So very, very sorry.”

For the first time in her life, Maria was completely lost for words and when she turned back to her father she saw that he too was crying.

“I, I don't understand,” she said eventually but the words didn't seem to be coming from her own lips. “She can't be my sister. She lives in Berlin with her parents. How can she be my sister?”

The ensuing silence was broken only by the gentle sobbing of her parents as the realisation of the truth slowly came to her.

“You told me many times that things were bad and that you gave everything up and almost lost this house. Are you saying that I wasn't the only child you had back then?”

Both Anna and Herman nodded miserably.

“But, I still don't get it. Was Katarina taken from you? Is that what you are saying?”

“We were desperate, Maria. We had to make sure you both survived...”

“I am trying to understand, Papa, I really am. Did, did you give her away?”

Anna wiped her eyes.

“We couldn't feed you both, Maria. We couldn't feed ourselves. We had to do what was best for both of you. We were afraid that any day they were going to take you from us when we could no longer keep this house. We had no more fuel to heat us, no money for food! Every day we were living, if you can call it that, from hand to mouth. There was no other way.”

“But Mama, Berlin! So far away!”

“We didn't choose Berlin, Maria. Magda and Siegfried Langsdorff were our closest friends. We had all grown up together and whilst he and your father were away fighting in the war, Magda and I took care of each other. Magda was the one who helped you both into the world and when we made that terrible decision we knew that they would make good parents.”

She looked carefully at her daughter.

“From what you have told us of her, it would appear that they did.”

Maria stood up and looked at each of them in turn. Her mind was blank, and all the questions she thought she should ask were lost in a numbness the like of which she had never known.

She didn't cry; she certainly couldn't laugh.

“Maria...”

She looked at her mother who, seeing her distress fell silent.

She looked at her father.

The walls of the room seemed to be closing in on her, crushing her.

She had to get out.

She had to be alone.

She had to think.

“You gave away my sister?”

She turned away and walked slowly at first towards the door.

“Maria, where are you going? Wait, please wait.”

She paused but didn't look back. All she could do was to whisper again those same words.

“You gave away my sister.”

She heard their voices calling after her, but they couldn't penetrate the mist that had descended upon her as she walked away.

 

Without stopping for her coat, she opened the door and walked blindly out onto the street with no thought as to where she would go or what she would do.

Her mind was blank, and she seemed to have lost all power of cognitive thought.

Behind her she heard the voices of her beloved parents calling her back but they were just sounds, lost in the general hiss of her emotional turmoil.

 

How long she walked or even where, she had no idea. The people she passed were just vague shapes on the edge of her consciousness but, gradually, her senses began to return and in a flash she realised that she had to return home.

This wasn't her! This wasn't the Maria she had always been, the efficient nurse in control at all times, not some self-absorbed fool who didn't even notice the rain!

Then she thought of the distress her parents would be feeling, not knowing where she had gone and she felt suddenly ashamed of herself.

 

It was a drenched, bedraggled and thoroughly abashed young woman who returned to the kitchen and to her Mama and Papa who were still sitting where she had left them.

She was greeted with such relief. Although it had felt like hours to her, Maria had actually only been gone for twenty minutes but even that had been an agonising time for her parents.

“I'm sorry,” she said, shamefaced. “I shouldn't have run of like that. I...”

Her apology was cut short when both her parents hugged her tightly, and now Maria found the tears that had been missing for so long.

“There is no reason to apologise, Liebling,” her father reassured her. “It was a shock. It is we who should apologise for causing you such distress.”

Maria smiled a sad smile.

“Will you explain it to me, please. I need to know what happened that brought you to such a heartbreaking decision.”

It was her mother who replied.

“Yes, Sweetheart, we will but first, let's get you out of these wet clothes.”

 

The light was fading when the story was finally told. Maria had never realised the hardships her parents had endured in those early days. They had barely talked about it other than briefly and in scant detail and Maria felt terrible that she had never asked if they wanted to talk about it.

Finally she asked,

“Why did you never tell me about Katarina? I know I never asked you about anything but I am twenty-three now and have just discovered that the best friend I ever had is actually my twin sister.”

It was her father who told her.

“We never really knew what to do,” he said. “All these years we have lived with the guilt of our actions. We never envisaged that you two would meet one day. How could we know that you would grow up so alike and come together in such unbelievable circumstances.”

He paused for a minute.

“Maybe,” he continued slowly. “Maybe it's God's way of putting right the wrong we have done. Maybe we should have told you from the beginning.”

“So why now, then, Papa? What has happened that made you tell me today?”

Herman looked down at the letter which was still where she had left it.

“We received a letter from Siegfried Langsdorff. In it he said that Katarina was so different since she returned home and was missing you so much that he and Magda felt that they needed to tell her. He said that Katarina had talked about your friendship and about her feelings for you being so different from those towards anyone she had ever met and wanted so much to be with you again. He also wrote that the time had come that they felt she should know the truth. When you wrote that letter I felt that we couldn't keep it from you any longer either.”

Maria listened and finally felt a strange peace come over her. She understood everything now and she couldn't be angry. How could she be? Her parents gave up everything to ensure both her and Katarina's survival but then, a thought struck her.

“Oh my Lord! Katarina!” she exclaimed suddenly. “She will be devastated!”

She turned first to her father and then to her mother.

“She will have learned not just about us being siblings but that her parents are not really her parents! She will be heartbroken! My goodness, I have lost nothing compared what she has. How could I be so selfish?”

Maria stood and began to pace the room.

She stopped suddenly.

“I have to go to her!”

Herman was aghast.

“Maria, you can't! You are leaving in just two days!”

She resumed pacing, back and forth, thinking hard. She couldn't leave without talking to... to her sister.

The very idea was still only just making sense.

“All right,” she said at length. “Then I must telephone her, somehow. Where is the nearest telephone?”

“In the post office,” her mother replied. “It is closed. Wait until the morning, Sweetheart and we will work out what to do then.”

“You know,” Herman said, thinking as he slowly spoke. “We don't actually know whether Siegfried and Magda actually have told her yet. They only said they were going to and is a public place best for such matters? I wonder if it may be best just to write to her.”

Maria considered what he said.

“Perhaps you are right, Papa.”

She paused, and then, crouching between them and taking a hand in each of hers, continued.

“I really am sorry for running off like that. What has happened doesn't change anything between us. I still love you both just as much. I just hope that Katarina still loves her Mama and Papa too.”

 

It was very late when they finally retired for the night.

Maria sat on the edge of her bed for several minutes. Any chance of sleep seemed a far off possibility as her mind was still whirring from the day's revelations.

She stood and returned quietly to the kitchen where she saw her letter still laying untouched on the table.

She sat down and looked at it for a moment and then armed with a fresh sheet of paper, took up her pen.

 

My dearest Katarina.

I wrote to you today to send my thoughts as a dear friend but now that letter cannot be sent.

I have received news to which, I am ashamed to say, I did not react well.

I sincerely hope that you also now know that you and I are twin sisters and that I am not the one to heap this monumental news upon you.

At first I was shocked and angry and couldn't understand how such a thing could happen but I understand better now.

My first reaction was to come to visit you but I cannot because, the day after tomorrow I am to leave again for the destination we failed to reach.

I cannot be angry with my parents, the decision they faced was impossible and what they did was the best option for both of us. How could I ever hold that against them?

I know, too, that your Mama and Papa love you as much as mine do me.

Now I have had the time to think clearly, having you as a long lost sister is the most wonderful thing. I knew from the moment we met that you and I had something special between us but I never imagined that this was it.

My heart is heavy that we cannot be together at this difficult time but I promise that as soon as I am able I will come to you.

I will write again when I arrive 'there' but, for now, I send my love.

Your new Sister,

Maria. XX

 

 

 

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