So this is a little longer than the last chapter. I felt that because I kept you guys hanging for so long, I sort of owe it to you to publish two chapters in a short span of time. Things are slowly getting somewhere so I hope you guys enjoy! Please remember to review, I love to hear constructive feedback.
The clean clothes and cold water brought to me seem to have given me a new sense of vitality. Not all is lost. Maybe I can stall long enough for everything to go right again. Maybe I can end up back in Donny's arms again.
It's maybe been ten minutes since August walked out and the soldier brought me clothes when I hear footsteps down the stairs approaching the door again. I really hope that's the soldier bringing me some food this time. The door opens to reveal August with two champagne glasses in his hand. I furrow my brows in confusion, "Au-gust?" I ask, my pitch faltering.
"I figured I would wait here with you and drink some champagne while the others do the grunt work. You don't mind sharing a bottle while we wait, do you?"
"No. Of course not."
"Wonderful. The men will go out and thoroughly search your apartment and the surrounding areas, hopefully yielding positive results. If not, we can just brainstorm ideas of other possible locations. And thoughts always flow more freely with some drinks flowing, no?"
I nod, unsurely. At least he isn't here to hurt me again.
"Good. That's why I left your wrists untied. This way we can have a lovely couple of hours together while we wait." He sets the glasses down and pours a generous amount into each, his smile never faltering. Handing me one, he nods and implores, "Try it!"
I take a sip and smile, too uneasy to really taste and enjoy the contents. Nodding in approval, I set the glass down on my lap and twirl the neck in my hands slowly, careful not to spill its contents. "Only the best, my Eloise." Slowly, August sips his own drink and sets it back down to retrieve something from his pocket. He pulls his hand back out and reveals a shiny, spotless blade. As with the flaming rod, he twirls the object in his hands and looks at it longingly.
"Do you remember the night we last parted, when the men stole you away from me?"
"How could I forget?"
"Then you'll undoubtedly remember that I am a man who gets what I want one way or another. I was about to get what I rightly deserved before they put a damper in our evening. Don't think that I won't be able to tell if you're lying. You have one chance to confess now. If I come to find out you still haven't come around, I will not show you mercy as I am doing now. I have used this blade on anyone who gets in the way of what I want and you will be no different. This being said, have you anything to confess mein Liebe?"
I stay quiet a moment, not to consider his offer but to appear as if I'm mulling it over. "August, I think I've told you everything I know. I'll try to help as much as I can." He smiles, seemingly satisfied with my response, "Very well."
We sit in silence for a while with no sound to be heard but that of our sipping. I feel more at ease when I realize he actually thinks I'm helping as best I can. It seems to me that he should be more apprehensive considering I was with the men for a while and he tried to rape me. I would think he wouldn't trust me suddenly joining his side. But, to be fair, August seems clinically insane. I wouldn't put him past making rash illogical decisions. If I continue to play along, things should be fine. As long as I continue believing that I'll see Donny again, both of us alive and well, I can keep myself going.
August sets his drink down and slowly unties my ankles. I can't keep my brows from furrowing. What the hell is he doing? He carefully puts his hands under my elbows, helping me up. Using the rope from my ankles, he ties my wrists behind my back.
"Patience Eloise. You'll see in a minute."
He pulls me to the ground with him until we're both sitting awkwardly on the floor facing each other. In a discomforting movement, August brushes my cheek with his thumb. He leans in until his eyes are incredibly close to mine; they are piercing into me making me feel intensely uncomfortable. "You are so beautiful," he exclaims, emphasizing each word. I feel an overwhelming sense of nausea form in my pit. No, please not this again. We're in a locked room. There is no way anyone could stop him at this point.
"I just want to show you my appreciation for aiding my investigations," he whispers and lightly kisses my cheek. I want to shudder at his touch but my body has gone into shock. I feel like I can't move, breathe, or speak. "I don't want you to," my voice cracks, anxiety weighing heavy in my bones making me feel anchored to the floor. Suddenly, a loud snap reverberates in the small room, followed by a sharp stinging on my cheek. The sound seems to echo in my head as I look at August's twisted angry features.
"You bitch. I could have you still sitting half naked. I could have burned you at least three more times on mere principle." He gets up, roughly rubbing his chin and staring at the far corner of the room. "I'm just a fool. Thinking a dirty whore like you would come to your senses."
Unexpectedly, he jumps back around and wraps his hands around my throat. The immense pressure he's putting on my scar alone makes me see stars. I feel the room closing in on me as his grip tightens. The lack of air in my lungs makes me see spots and colors everywhere I look and I can only imagine how red my face must be. And I'm sure this is it. These are my last moments. All I can think about is Donny's smile. I remember the first day I really realized how handsome he was, that first day I went out on the field with the Basterds. The same night we first kissed. I think about his lips and how I watched them closely as he spoke. I remember how all of the sudden, I had fallen so in love with him and I didn't even know. I had no idea that he would be the last thing I ever thought about. I had no idea.
I awake taking a deep breath. Where am I? I feel soft silk sheets over me. Soft layers. So many soft layers. Is this heaven?
I slip out of the bed and walk towards a window. Passing a mirror, I stare in horror. In my reflection I see big purple bruises around my neck and the giant, red gash on my neck. No, this is certainly not heaven. The door to the room creaks behind me and I turn to see the same timid soldier as before. He sets a cup of milk on the nightstand with some sort of pastry and turns to walk back out the door without a word. I drink the milk eagerly, every gulp causing a sharp pain in my throat. I hear German speaking outside between a man and a woman. Thankfully, it doesn't sound like August. The voices get closer and the door opens again to reveal an elegantly dressed woman.
"I am lead to believe you speak English, Fräulein?"
I nod sheepishly, unable to take my eyes off of her sparkling gown.
"Wonderful," her tone is unenthusiastic.
"Who are you?" I'm careful with my tone so as not to upset her.
"I am August's younger sister and I am currently hosting a party of sorts downstairs. Could you be so kind so as not to disturb us?" I can't read her tone at all. Her tone is genuine but her words are rude. I nod and she smiles, "Danke Fräulein. I'll answer any questions you might have later on in the night once all my guests have left." I smile back and thank her, ready to go back to sleep for a while.
When I lay back in bed, I can't stop thinking about what will happen. Will I be able to escape later on when August's sister is asleep or hopefully too inebriated to stop me? Even if I get out of here successfully, how in the world would I find my way back to the Basterds? There is no way they'd be anywhere obvious. I don't know where the Frenchman's house is in relation to this place and I'm sure they're long gone by now. They'd never risk staying in one place too long when they're being searched for. My throat begins to close up as it always does when I'm frustrated. Here I was. All my life I had been searching for a way to matter, some way to do well in the world. I had been able to make some difference and find someone I really cared about. Then it was quickly taken away from me.
I think of how quickly my family was broken apart and in a sense taken away from me. I hadn't been there when my father was shot in the streets but from what I'd heard he had gotten in an argument, I presume with a Nazi officer, and been shot in front of my mother. I remember how distant my mother was after that; how she only seemed like the ghost of her former self, occupying a fragile, sickly thin shell. How, although I should have seen it coming, I was so shocked when I came home from nursing school one day to find my sister sobbing. She told me there was nothing she could do when she came home to see Maman had shot herself. No one knew where she got the gun. I still have trouble believing it happened. The Maman I knew wouldn't have left her little girls.
My sister couldn't look at me anymore. She always looked away when we sparsely spoke. At times when she thought I was sleeping, I'd feel her sit on the side of my bed and weep. She'd rub my back and cry. She didn't have to tell me it was because I look like my mother. I knew the whole time.
Then one day, again when I came home from school, my sister was gone. I understood, but I didn't forgive. She had left me alone in the house we grew up in. I couldn't take it anymore. I sold the house rather quickly and used the money to start over in my apartment in Paris near the bistro. That was nearly three years ago. Three years and every day I think about my sister and where she could be. Is that what Donny will become to me one day? Will I spend the rest of my life longing to see him again and apologize for the time we have spent apart, as if it was somehow my fault? I can barely do that for my sweet Chloé, I can't bear to do that again with Donny. I close my eyes to imagine a world in which Donny and I didn't meet in these circumstances and doze off.
I hear a faint tapping at my door. I can't tell if I've been lying awake for hours or if I've just woken up. I clear my throat and sit upright, "Yes?"
August's sister comes in, now in a modest nightgown, and sits on the side of the bed next to me. "I realize I never introduced myself Fräulein, my name is Monika. As I said, I am August's sister. He has left you with me because, as a result of his actions," she pauses to motion at my throat, "he is too embarrassed to face you any time in the immediate future."
There is a moment of silence as I take in her features. She is absolutely gorgeous with her piercing blue eyes and thin red lips. It is impossible for me to fathom how August could have such a charming sister. She smiles again and chuckles a bit.
"I am lead to believe that you were working with the Americans?"
I stare at her nervously and nod. After more silence, I question if I even nodded. She isn't showing a reaction at all. Finally, she grins wide, "I would very much like to show you something."
I follow her down luxurious spiral stairs with velvet carpeting; a standard sizable crystal chandelier hangs in the center of the steps. We walk in silence to a beautiful kitchen and she stops to face me, "Now I am trusting that you are still against the Nazis. I do believe you have lied to my brother and taken him for the fool he really is." I stare at her in disbelief. She's going to kill me. She brought me to this kitchen to get a butcher knife to kill me with.
She laughs gingerly, snapping me out of my thoughts, "Don't be so afraid. I applaud you for it. Had I known earlier, I would have helped you out a long time ago." I freeze. What the hell is going on here?
Silently, she goes to a large cabinet and pulls out supplies. I'm too confused to realize what she's up to. She slowly pulls out a huge plank of wood to reveal a doorway and pulls the hanging switch to turn on lights. She steps in and looks behind at me, "Come on now, follow me."
We go down a series of steps before I hear Monika say something in German from next to me loud enough for it to echo in the hallway we're treading across. I hear voices say something in German back. The voices sound incredibly close. We turn a corner and I finally see it. There are six people down here surrounding a table and breaking bread. My eyes start tearing up. August's own sister is hiding Jews in her house.
"Eloise, these men and women have been staying with me for about a year now. They usually eat and stay awake during the night when no one is here and sleep all day to avoid making noise anyone might hear."
I hug her so tightly that I can tell she's getting uncomfortable, but I can hear her lightly chuckle. "The last bunch before them stayed here until I could find a way for them to safely travel north and out of dangerous territory. Unfortunately, now is not a great time for them to escape so they've been here quite a while." She looks at me with an emotion I can't place, but it seems to be pleasant, "I will take you to search for your men in the morning. For now, I need you to get some rest."
And for the first time in what feels like an eternity, I feel hope and joy again.