"We will be cruel to the Germans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the disemboweled, dismembered, and disfigured bodies of their brothers we leave behind us. And the German won't be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their brothers endured at our hands, and our boot heels, and the edge of our knives. And the German will be sickened by us, and the German will talk about us, and the German will fear us. And when the German closes their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with."
Josephine Laroche hadn't had the easiest life, but she had loved almost every minute of it. At twenty-one, she was young and seemed carefree, even in a world that seemed to be falling apart. Paris in early 1944 was quieter than it had been during Josie's childhood, but she didn't mind. She liked the peaceful, artistic lifestyle that she and her friends shared.
Josie tried to keep her head down, avoid the Gestapo, and make enough from her paintings to afford her small loft apartment. But since Josie had to be extra careful, her rambunctious personality had turned into a somber one. She was more mature than most ladies five years her senior. Being a young, black girl who lived independently was very risky during this period. Josie knew that, but she could handle herself if she had to. Besides, Marcel was always there to lean on if she needed him.
Her big brother lived and worked at Le Gamaar Theater with Shosanna Dreyfus, a Jew from the Parisian countryside who lived under the alias of Emmanuelle Mimieux. Shosanna was also someone Josie could look to for support should she find herself in a sticky situation. Yet lately she was feeling detached from them, and deeply separated from the community that she was a part of.
Today, Marcel had stopped by Josie's loft; he hadn't seen her in quiet awhile and had been worried.
"Josie!" The muscular man embraced his thin sister at her door.
"Oh, Marcel, you haven't dropped by in ages. Usually I'm the one visiting you!" Josie smiled weakly. She did love her older brother, but she was feeling less social by the day.
Marcel took a bag over to her table and revealed a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine, "Gifts for my baby sister."
Josie got two glasses from a shelf and put them on the table for her brother to fill, "How has Shosanna been? Are you two talking about marriage yet?"
Marcel laughed, "Shosanna is fine these days, and no. During this war, it is not wise for us to be open about our relationship. A black man and a Jewish girl… we'd both be sent away!"
Josie nodded her understanding and silently sipped her glass of wine. Marcel could not hold in any longer. "Josephine, you don't seem to be yourself… How have you been?" Marcel asked, using Josie's full first name.
The girl shrugged, "I'm fine, Marcel. …I am just trying to keep to myself."
"And why is that?"
Josie sighed, "If you must know, I am really quite depressed and insulted. Every time I try to enjoy a night out, I'm harassed by Nazi soldiers who suspect I'm a prostitute! But not just to check my papers and let me be on my way. No, they try to get favors from me! Oh, I just hate it, Marcel!" Josie sunk in her chair. The officers in their area were becoming more and more hostile.
Marcel frowned. "Josie Laroche, you know what and who you are, and you know what you are not. When this is all over, you will have your life back. And you can smile the way you used to when, we were kids. Remember?" Marcel nudged Josie's chin up, and she chuckled. It was a rare sound these days.
After Marcel left, Josie put on her apron and took her easel over to her window. Using a mixture of black, red, and purple, she tried to convey her feelings in the only form she knew how. When she had finished her abstract work, which was well into the night, she decided that this wasn't a piece she could sale. It was too personal, too precious, and the bright red made her think of someone, though she couldn't remember a name. Josie propped the canvas up on her desk and climbed into her bed.