It's been a few weeks, but here is the part two to my insane dream world. Read The Red, Pt I if you missed it the first time. Enjoy!
I found myself in the back alley taking a long drag from a cigarette, standing next to this Nazi soldier, wondering how I find myself in the most obnoxious situations. I've since learned his name is Norbert, "but call me Bert."
After the initial shock of back talking one Nazi solder in the presence of another, and realizing he wasn't going to kill me, I noticed Bert had a genuine demeanor and easy smile. After that stint, I boarded up my shop for the day, letting the mess sit while I gathered my thoughts and drained four cigarettes. Bert joined me and started talking.
"I do not enjoy my life right now, but I don't have a choice. I play pretend and do my job and it's gotten me here. I don't get to see my family or my wife, because they've all disowned me and hide their distaste for Hitler and the German State," he said in a low whisper.
Bert then turned to look at me, his blue eyes rimmed with tears and the right crease on his face getting deeper as his lips turned upside down. "And after all of this inhumanity, when I can go back to my life, I will have nothing and no one. Except this disgusting patch on my arm." He referenced his burning red arm band, emblazoned with the swastika.
"I'm staying here to help you, as long as it takes. It's not my job, but I'd like to feel good about myself today."
I didn't complain, as I knew it was going to be a rough few hours preparing my store.
"I'll be here tomorrow as well, when she shows up." He spat out "she" as though he were about to lose his two front teeth. He touched my arm gently, and I flinched without hesitation.
"Don't be worried, I'm one of the good ones."
He stepped inside with Henri to get started. I looked at my cigarette box and started talking to it, as I do from time to time.
"Alright, Adele. What do I do? If I've learned anything, it's to never trust a cyclist and to never trust a Nazi."
This cigarette box was hers. She dated my father on and off as a child and ran this store. I fell in love with it from the second I walked in. Mahogany shelves, beautiful wood flooring, and so many windows. When my father died, she took me in, gave me my job, and acted as my surrogate parent. She was everything to me and so beautiful. Adele had long brunette locks that flowed down to the small of her back and whipped anytime she turned her head ever so slightly. Things turned dark when she started coughing blood that Thursday night. She's smoked cigarettes her whole life, and it took it's toll. The doctor told her to stop, but even in her last days, she was surrounded by her billowing smoke. She gave me the silver cigarette box on her last day.
She said, "Take the shop and take this box. It was a gift from my mother. I channel her through it, and I feel like she's with me."
It was plain and smooth, with a quote engraved on the inside, "Je suis sous le charme," meaning, "I'm under a charm."
I closed the box with great nostalgia and headed inside. I found Bert and Henri busy at work, putting the place back together.
We spent the next 6 hours chatting, laughing, and making everything right. I learned Bert was a bit of a comedian, causing fits of laughter every twenty minutes. I sent Henri off to sleep and study, determined to finish the last bits of cleaning. As I waved her off, I realized Bert was missing. He appeared from my back holding a bottle of wine, one of the many I keep back there, you know, just in case.
"After that, we deserve something like this," he said proudly.
"I didn't think a soldier could imbibe in uniform," I stated with too much sass.
"I don't think a soldier is supposed to help a beautiful woman clean in uniform either," he retorted.
He pulled out the cork and poured two glasses. I ignored his compliment as I'm usually awkward about things like that.
"Thank you for your help today. We couldn't have done it without you"
"Oh, it's nothing. I'm glad to have helped," Bert said.
With the sun down and the store lights dim, there was something about him that caught me off guard. It may have been the wine, but I felt myself very relaxed around Bert, despite his attire.
We finished the bottle, no surprise there, and he politely stated his soon departure. I helped him grab his things, and walked him to the store front.
I was about to thank him one more time, when he cut me off.
"I know it was work, but I enjoyed meeting you. I'm sorry for everything you went through today, but you were tough about it. I'd like to enjoy your company a little more often if that's okay with you. I'll see you in the morning."
He so casually grabbed my arm and kissed my cheek. He held my gaze for a little too long and I was speechless. Bert was expecting me to say something, but nothing could come out. I felt childish watching him walk through the door into the cold night air.
"Mughh," fell out of my mouth.
What did I just say? It's like I'd lost my ability to speak.
He stopped to turn, "What was that?"
"Uh, nothing," I said with no articulacy whatsoever.
"Goodnight, beautiful," he said with a grin as he disappeared into the night.
And just like that, a Nazi soldier had swept me off my feet.