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Kindred Spirits, Distant Hearts. Chapter 7
By
AnnaMayZing

Kindred Spirits, Distant Hearts. Chapter 7

“I'm sorry, Matron,” he said, unhappily curling his lip. “I'm afraid we have a problem..."

Munchen-Pasing. May 01st, 1941

 

The drone of the three engines was too much for Maria to doze in her seat.

It was set to be a long journey that had begun when a car had arrived to take her across the city to Riem where the new airport was situated, the same one at which she had landed when she returned from her ordeal in the Mediterranean.

Although her transport had arrived at five that evening, she knew that she would not be flying until around eight and expected to arrive in Rome at some time during the night.

Although loud, the regular growl was somehow reassuring, and she closed her eyes and thought about her imminent departure.

 

Since the only flight she had even taken in her life had been on the tiny Junkers back from Malaga, this flight would be another new experience.

Having asked an engineer what type of aeroplane this was, he replied somewhat curtly,

“Ju52, Ma'am,” and continued with the work he was doing, leaving her to climb the steps into the crowded cabin.

There were no passengers and not even any seats, unlike her previous flight. Instead, the large open cabin was stacked high with boxes and crates all covered with netting, and she wondered if she were to stand for the whole trip. Her fears were soon allayed though when from behind the stack of boxes appeared an airman dressed in overalls and holding a leather cap which had wires dangling from it. She imagined that he was no older than she was.

 

“Good evening, Ma'am,” he smiled warmly, in stark contrast to the busy engineer to whom she had spoken just moments ago. “You must be Matron Kaufmann?”

“I am,” she replied, unable to completely hide the nervousness in her voice, “Good evening.”

“I am Oberleutnant Horst Hartman, the navigator of this flying truck. Welcome aboard.”

He bowed with an exaggerated flourish and Maria couldn't help but smile at his antics.

“Thank you, Oberleutnant Horst Hartman,” she replied, unable to suppress a chuckle. “So, do I have to stand for the whole flight? I can't see any seats.”

The young airman's eyes twinkled, his smile broad as he continued in the same exaggerated manner.

“Oh no, Ma'am. Please allow me to show you to the first class passenger seats I have reserved especially for you.”

With a flourish of his arm, he directed her along the narrow aisle that had been left along the side of the cargo allowing her just enough room to shuffle sideways towards the front of the aircraft cabin where she found a small space had been left, just behind the cockpit.

“Your seat, Ma'am.”

She stared at the small canvas perch which he had folded down from the cabin wall and then, in a more normal demeanour, said apologetically,

“I'm afraid that's all we have. It is for cargo or paratroops generally, as you see but it is not as uncomfortable as it looks.”

Maria smiled. At least there was a window beside her, and she could enjoy the view. Then she realised that most of the flight would be in darkness anyway.

“Thank you, Oberleutnant. It is better than standing at least.”

“Yes,” the suave young flyer agreed. “That is very true. I will stow your kit at the rear, so it will be easier to unload when we arrive in Rome.”

 

And so she found herself sitting, waiting for the aeroplane to move. The engines had been running for several minutes, and she opened her eyes and looked out of the window, wondering why it was taking so long.

On her previous flight, once the engine had started the aeroplane had moved off almost right away but this one seemed to be taking forever.

She looked at her watch, eight fifteen. She didn't know whether the eight o'clock schedule was exact or just approximate but generally, Germany ran on precise timings and so she thought that this was probably unusual.

Outside, she saw an engineer pointing towards the engine on the wing, and as he did so, the droning suddenly increased as the propeller spun faster and then returned to the lower, steady note.

The engineer who had pointed then ran towards the aeroplane and disappeared under the wing, reappearing a moment later dragging a pair of wooden blocks behind him then turned and raised his arm with his thumb extended.

Moments later, the engines revved in unison, and the aircraft began to move away from the terminal building.

Maria took a deep breath. Once more she was heading for a new adventure and this time, she hoped, she would get there without any drama!

They stopped briefly at the end of the runway and waited whilst another aeroplane landed and then moved forwards, turning to line up with the concrete which stretched away into the distance.

She waited expectantly as the engine note rose to a crescendo but then, to her surprise dropped back again.

She watched the engine on the wing as once more the noise increased and she noticed that there was a faint blue haze emitted every time it revved which she assumed was the exhaust. Since she had seen similar from the traffic in the city, she guessed that aeroplanes probably worked the same way.

Again the noise and vibration dropped back to the lower level, but this time they began to move slowly, turned and returned to the direction from which they had come, back towards the terminal buildings!

They stopped in the same place that they had begun and the same engineer she had earlier seen remove the wooden blocks ran back under the wing, dragging them behind him and reappeared once more, empty handed.

The engines all stopped simultaneously, and she watched with dismay as the once shining disc of the propeller slowed and then disappeared altogether, leaving the two blades stationary and silent.

As she waited, unsure of whether to try to find someone the door in the bulkhead beside her suddenly swung open and the young navigator appeared looking quite flustered and angry.

He dragged the leather flying cap from his head and smoothed back his slick blond hair with his free hand.

“I'm sorry, Matron,” he said, unhappily curling his lip. “I'm afraid we have a problem with one of the engines. No oil pressure.”

“Will that delay us for long?” she asked, having a slight idea that maybe he meant the lubricating oil that she had learned about when learning to drive in Karlsruhe.

“Well, the engineers will check it, but I will have to ask you to return to the terminal building. I will come and find you when I have news.”

 

From the window in the terminal, Maria sat and watched the activity around the stricken aeroplane.

A small truck had arrived and reversed close to the wing, and tall step ladders had been placed by the engine. She found it quite intriguing to watch the engineers taking the covers off and peering into it, shiny tools glinting in the failing light.

About thirty minutes later, the navigator appeared.

“I'm sorry, but the engine will have to be changed which means that we cannot meet our schedule tonight.”

“Oh, so when... I mean, do I wait here or...?

The young airman smiled.

“No, that would not be very comfortable. We will probably not now go until tomorrow night. The cargo is very important, so it will be flown to Tripoli only under cover of darkness. I can find you a hotel in the meantime.”

“Oh goodness no! That won't be necessary, Herr Oberleutnant,” Maria laughed. “I live in Munich. I shall return home and come back tomorrow!”

She paused suddenly and thought.

“If that is all right,” she added.

“I don't see why not,” Oberleutnant Hartman replied. “In fact, I will see if I can find someone take you home and pick you up again tomorrow although...”

His voice trailed away as though he had just thought of something and Maria tilted her head to the side, waiting for him to continue.

“It might have to be a lorry.”

Maria laughed.

“That doesn't matter,” she said. “I learnt how to drive lorries earlier this year.”

The Oberleutnant's eyes opened wide in amazement. The young woman he could see before him was young, beautiful, slightly built and now she was telling him she could drive a lorry?

“Don't look so surprised!” she exclaimed, a mischievous half-smile on her lips. “We are at war aren't we?”

He smiled and shook his head in disbelief.

“Yes, and every day brings a surprise or two.”

He chuckled once more.

“Wait here then, and I will see what I can find.”

 

The navigator didn't return. Instead, as she stood by the door and watched her transport being towed away to be repaired, a lorry pulled up in front of the building.

She found it amusing that it was identical to the ones she had learned to drive, even down to the colour. Dark grey with a canvas cover over the back. The driver got out and came straight to her and saluted, Nazi style with right arm outstretched.

“Matron Kaufmann?” he asked, and she nodded.

“Oberleutnant Hartman sends his apologies but with regret, Ma'am he says you must remain here. He says that once the engine change is complete, you have to fly immediately to Rome.”

“Oh, I see,” she replied, not too sad since at least she wouldn't have to say goodbye to her Mama and Papa all over again. “Do you have any idea how long it will be?”

“Two, maybe three hours at a guess, Ma'am. I will come for you when it is ready. It is more comfortable here than in the hanger, anyway.”

Maria smiled warmly.

“Thank you, Gefreiter.”

“You're welcome, Ma'am.”

The airman paused, looking at her for a moment, his brusque military manner softened by her sweet demeanour. He was about to turn away when he stopped.

“Can I get you anything, Ma'am, while you wait?”

“No, I think I have all I need unless...” she paused. “Is there anywhere I can get coffee?”

The young man seemed pleased that he could do something for her.

“I don't know, Ma'am but don't worry about that; I shall bring you some.”

He waited, looking at her, admiring her and then seemed to regain his senses and turned away to return to his truck.

 

Maria settled herself into one of the more comfortable looking seats, wondering if the young man actually would find some coffee.

Ten minutes later, true to his word, the grey truck pulled up outside, and he reappeared carrying a metal cylinder.

“Your coffee, Ma'am,” he said with a smile as wide as the Danube. Maria guessed correctly that he was pleased that he had been able to do this small thing for her.

“I'm afraid we have no sugar available just now. I hope that is all right.”

Maria took the vacuum flask gratefully. This young man was little more than a boy.

“That's fine,” she said in her sweetest tone. “I don't use it anyway.”

The Airman blushed deeply as his hand brushed against hers.

“I, I will come back when...” he stuttered pointing in the general direction of where Maria guessed the hanger would be and, without finishing the sentence he turned and left.

 

Maria settled into the leather sofa and prepared for a long wait. She didn't open the flask immediately, knowing that once she did, the coffee would not stay hot for much longer, so she placed it on the floor beside her.

She was about to look for her book when she realised that all her kit was still on board the aeroplane so she sat back and closed her eyes, just letting her thoughts wander wherever they would.

 

After a time which could have been a few or many minutes, she had no idea; Maria heard her name called. It was a familiar voice, and she jumped up and turned to face the person calling her.

“Katarina!” she exclaimed, unable to hide the joy in her voice and threw her arms around her sister.

They remained thus briefly until Maria stepped back, still holding Katarina's hands.

“It is wonderful to see you, and there is so much that I wanted to say. Are you all right?”

“Oh yes, I am fine, Maria, thank you. I couldn't let you go without seeing you.”

“But how did you know I would be here? I should have left ages ago, but the aeroplane is broken.”

Katarina squeezed her hands firmly but gently and shrugged her shoulders.

“I don't know, intuition maybe. I had to come though.”

“Oh Lord, I am so pleased that you did. It was tearing me up wondering how long it would be before we could meet again. We parted as friends, and now we meet again as sisters. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.”

Once again, the two young siblings embraced and then sat together and Maria suddenly realised something she hadn't considered at that moment.

“Oh, Katarina, I'm sorry, I didn't think. I imagine it is much harder for you than for me.”

Her sister replied slowly.

“Well yes, in a way I suppose but it doesn't change how I feel about my Mama and Papa, and I don't blame anyone either. They did what they had to do to survive, but the most important thing is that you, my dearest and closest friend is a part of me and will be for the rest of my life and that is the most wonderful feeling ever!”

Maria agreed.

“What you say is true, I don't blame them either but I always new that something was missing from my life, that I wasn't complete somehow, but I couldn't work out why. I mentioned it once but we never really talked about it. My parents...” she stopped then corrected herself. “Our parents sometimes spoke of the sacrifices they made for us to survive but never really gave the whole picture. I think they wanted to tell me but really couldn't.”

Katarina looked sad.

“You know, Maria. It is very hard for me to think of your parents as being my parents too. I have only met your father once, and have never met your mother.”

Once again, Maria felt sorry that she had taken so much for granted. The only thing that had changed for her was the fact that she now had a sister. Not a long lost one since she had not known about her but Katarina had also to cope with the fact that her parents were not her biological parents.

“I have not been so happy as I used to be since I returned home,” Maria confessed. “For the first time in my life, I was lonely. Is that a little strange, do you think?”

Katarina shook her head.

“No, I don't think so,” she said. “I felt it too, but now I understand why. We are like one person, you and I.”

“Yes,” Maria agreed. “I think that is it. Until we met there was just me, Mama and Papa and yet I sometimes got these odd feelings that something, someone maybe was missing. I don't know why since I had no idea that you existed.”

“I was the same, Maria. I always dismissed the thoughts as being irrational, but now it seems as though I knew all along. I couldn't have known though... could I?

“Well, I don't know but...”

Maria let the sentence tail off, an idea forming in her mind.

“Do you think it possible that deep in our subconscious we remembered being together as babies?”

Katarina didn't answer, and Maria dismissed her own thought.

“No, of course not. How could we?”

She was not totally convinced though. After all, what other explanation could there be?

They sat in silence for a few minutes until Maria remembered that fateful night aboard the British warship.

“How is your wound, Katarina? If you hadn't survived, I don't know what I would have done.”

Her sister took her hand and placed it on her abdomen.

“It is fine now,” she replied happily. “I knew you were there all the time when I was sick. I could feel your presence urging me on. You gave me the strength I needed, Maria. The strength to fight on and survive.”

 

Maria felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.

“Matron! Matron! It is ready.”

She looked around and saw a vague shape standing beside her then turned back to her sister.

“Katarina, I...” she didn't finish the sentence, Katarina had gone, and now she was alone.

She felt her shoulder being shaken again but more urgently this time and opened her eyes, struggling to comprehend what was happening.

The figure beside her was the young Luftwaffe engineer.

“Ma'am, the aeroplane is almost ready. I will take you to the hanger now.”

Her stomach wrenched as she looked around and realised that she had fallen asleep. Katarina was not, and never had been with her. It had all been a dream, a projection of what she wanted to be real but the truth was, she was now leaving without having been able to see her sister before she went and it was tearing at her.

She took a deep breath and forced herself back to reality.

“What time is it?” she asked.

“Gone midnight, Ma'am,” the engineer replied, and she sighed and stretched her arms then rubbed her stiff neck. The sofa was comfortable to sit in, but sleeping was not what it was intended for.

 

The airman looked at the flask beside her.

“If I may be so bold Ma'am. You haven't touched your coffee. May I suggest a cup before we go? It might help.”

She looked down at the forgotten container.

“Oh, yes, thank you. I think you may be right,” she agreed and reached down to pick it up.

“Allow me, Ma'am.”

He took the flask from her and quickly unscrewed the metal cup from the top and handed it to her.

She held it out whilst he poured the still steaming brown/black liquid.

It was quite possibly the worst coffee she had ever tasted, but at that moment it was like a gift from heaven, and she felt her senses returning once more to normal.

The airman waited patiently whilst she drained the last drop from the small cup and handed the empty receptacle to him.

“When I left Ma'am,” he began, screwing the cup back on top of the now half empty flask, “They were fitting the cowling back on so I would think they will be ready to go now.”

 

As Maria stepped from the dimly lit terminal building into the darkness outside, a sudden desire entered her mind.

She turned to the young engineer and grinned mischievously.

“Can I drive?”
He frowned and stared at her.

“Drive, Ma'am? What, the lorry?”

She nodded gleefully.

Can you drive?”

“Oh yes,” she replied, “The army taught me a few months ago.”

“Oh, well, I erm...”

Maria suddenly felt bad that she had placed this young man in such a position.

“It's all right, I shouldn't have asked.”

He looked at her deliberately, his face glowing a deep crimson in the light from the terminal buildings window. He seemed to be weighing her up somehow.

“If anything happens, Ma'am, I could get into serious trouble.”

“Yes, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked,” she replied a little abashed.

Still, the young man looked at her and then held out the keys.

“Please be careful,” was all he said.

 

 

 

 

 

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