By a Different Star
Something as big as a bullfrog leapt into my throat. The stranger at my door was the man who'd been through the ha-shoah. He was about Matt's age. He'd told me to call him Tai. It was an impossible coincidence, and my science teacher said there was no such thing as coincidences. I froze, and didn't even feel my mother come up behind me.
"Mr. Kostka, good evening! Good to see you again. This is my daughter, Danika." He nodded at me and smiled wider.
"Seems like I've startled her."
"Oh, nonsense. You know how odd children are. Do, come in! I'll show you to the guest room." He stooped to pick up his bags and followed my mother into the living room, leaving me standing in the doorway.
"It can't be. There's no way. No way at all," I murmured. I bit of hysterical laughter burst past the bullfrog in my throat. I mechanically made my way into the living room and worried the frays on my sleeve. "It's not even the first day of Hanukkah or Christmas or anything. Isn't there a specific day for miracles? But it is December."
"Why are you talking to yourself, Danika?" Casmir asked. "You're loony."
"Who? The writer guy?"
Casmir scratched his brown hair and paused. "So? It's not like mom's never invited anyone over before."
"No—it's him! Tai! Matt's friend from the war!" Casmir's eyes grew larger than I'd ever seen them grow before.
"Not! Come see!" We dashed up the stairs to the guest room, passing my mother on the way.
"Don't run up the stairs," she said automatically. Her words didn't register to me; all I could think of was the man in the guest room. Casmir and I burst into his room, making Tai drop the things he'd been holding. Words flew out of my mouth without my control.
"Hi again I'm sorry that we didn't knock but I need to ask you something if you don't mind about the war because we have a friend who baby-sits us and he was captured too and I was wondering what exactly your story is because I might know who you are!" I gasped and felt my face growing hot.
"Slow down, slow down!" he laughed, though I could tell he was a bit freaked out. "What was that again?"
I tried to think of the most important questions. "Which camps were you taken to?"
"Treblinka and then Magdanek."
"Do you have a sister?"
"Yes, but she passed away. On the way to Magdanek, actually." His face fell. I could tell that he'd been through these questions hundreds of times before.
"What happened to you—how did you escape?"
"The soldiers led us away from Magdanek, and they took me into the woods to kill me. Just then gunfire from the Allies exploded through the forest, and I was shot. I passed out, and when I woke up I was safe again. Aren't you too young to be asking about all this?"
My fingers were shaking on the doorknob by then. I could have hopped all the way to the moon, but I settled for crushing him in a hug. He returned it awkwardly. "You have to come with me! I know someone you know from the camp!"
To my dismay, he shook his head. "They told me that most of the people I knew were killed or have moved far away from here." He stepped away, but Casmir and I grabbed his hands. I just had to be the star that brought them together, even if I got grounded for it.
"You have to come!" We yelled. We dragged him out of his room and down the stairs, past my mother (who fortunately had her back turned to us). "We're showing Mr. Kostka the flower garden, mom!" We dashed out the door before she could protest and skipped up the stair to Matt's front door. I banged on it, almost bruising my hand.
"Calm down—Danika? What's the matter?" He glanced at me, worried.
"It's Tai! We've found him!" For a minute I thought that I had made a fatal mistake, and had just wasted my time. Matt just stood there, staring into Tai's eyes, and Tai did the same. Minutes passed with none of us saying a word. Matt made some kind of strangled noise in the back of his throat and fell into Tai's outstretched arms.
"This is impossible," he murmured, his face buried in Tai's shoulder. "I heard them shoot you. I thought that you were dead." Tai kissed his forehead. Cas and I were rooted to the spot, not needing to stay but not wanting to leave. They broke apart and Matt ushered him inside for some much needed catching up. He turned and flashed me the most brilliant smile, the one I'd always knew he had hidden inside somewhere. Just as I was shutting the door, I saw their faces inching closer for a kiss and giggled.
"What? What's so funny?"
"Nothing, Cas. Nothing at all."
What? What do you mean that I have this strange inability to write a sad, realistic, or non-schmoompy holiday story? I have no idea what you're talking about.
; Merry Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice!