Years of suffering; eons of torture. And here I was, walking down the same street that had brought me to it.
The same street that had saved me from it.
Himmel Street. Who would've thought that it could have lived up to its name?
And, if this truly was heaven, I would find my savior. Somewhere between these wrecked and crowded streets I prayed with all my soul that she waited for me.
The cool October breeze blew through my hair, whispering words that seemed lifetimes ago: His hair is like feathers. I had lived off of these memories for so long, and somehow, they had only seemed to get stronger with age.
The streets were dark and dim; the moon reflected softly off the rumbled remains of the street. I had heard of the bombing; there were few survivors.
I kept telling myself that she was one of those few. She had to be; she couldn't have died. It was impossible to consider and remarkably painful. I shook the thought from my head and looked up at the sky.
The sky was a deep navy blue, cloudless. No monster with a gray heart here to help me along.
For all I knew, I was the monster with the gray heart. But no-could I really believe that? Could I really be a monster? I had to be. How could I care for this fifteen year old girl more than the people who had taken me into their home, risking their lives just to save me? I was truly the monster, for bringing that on them. And now I didn't care whether they lived or died. I only cared for the girl.
And for all I knew, my heart was gray. I had lived for years, years that were impossibly long, surrounded by the gray. Barracks. Clothes. Skin. Sky. Was there truly any color anymore?
Down one street, up another. Ruin after ruin.
Ah. Finally. 33 Himmel Street. Destroyed completely, of course; was I honestly expecting more?
Well, of course I was.
But there had to be more. This couldn't be it.
Where else, where else? Where else could she be hiding from me? The two times I'd seen the outside of this street, this town, both had been in the cover of the night. Where else could there be?
Rudy. Rudy would know; Rudy would have the answer.
I stumbled up the street, not sure where I was going. Maybe something-something-
There, a solitary sign.
STEINER – SCHNEIDERMEISTER.
Steiner-Rudy. It had to be Rudy. Liesel had mentioned it once, hadn't she? Hadn't she?
No time for questions-I ran a hand through my hair, straightened my shirt, and opened the door.
My heart was beating a mile a minute as I approached the counter. A man greeted me with a warm smile. I cleared my throat. "Is there someone here by the name of Liesel Meminger?" My voice wavered on her name, and I was sure this man-Mr. Steiner, most likely-could hear my pulse.
"Yes, she's in the back," he told me. My knees almost gave out beneath me; I tried my best to keep a straight face. "May I ask who is calling on her?"
"Max," I whispered. "Max is here to see her"
A floorboard creaked before Mr. Steiner could pass along my message. A skinny girl of fifteen stood in front of an open door, her brown eyes wide with shock and surprise and happiness.
"Max!" she cried, and threw herself at me. I caught her feeble frame in my arms, and my legs couldn't support my weight any longer. I collapsed, and Liesel held on. The tears mingled as our cheeks met; she kissed my face repeatedly, and I copied her, hugging her close to me, never wanting to let go.
It was over. It was over.