Hanna Schmitz had never had a lot in life, that is of importance for you readers to know. She had never had a lot to be proud of.
Today, one could barely imagine just how times were like when Hanna was raised – in an orphanage with other boys and other girls of various ages. All that she had ever had had been well-earned. It never was a lot, though – most of the time she felt ashamed of herself really, of having… and being so very close to meaningless.
When Michael came into her life, she certainly wouldn't have thought to see him again. When Michael, however, returned months after that first meeting, she became… suspicious.
Most of the children who had been at the orphanage had been there since a very young age, like she. Most of them had never learned how to read or write, unless, of course, having been taught prior to becoming orphans. You see, being born rich did not necessarily mean you would be safe of that life forever. She had never been lucky enough to learn how to read or write – until, of course, at a later age… with Michael's unanticipated help.
Hanna Schmitz was far from stupid, though. Sure, Hanna had learned the hard way… but she definitely had learned. She even continued to learn until the very day she died.
When she saw him, she could barely believe that man to be Michael. When his hand lay upon the table, she could barely believe that that hand had once lovingly run over her skin… had elicited the most enjoyable feelings deep within her. He had definitely become… a man, in every sense of the word possible. Still, he was "the kid". To her, Michael would always be the kid.
In jail, one sure got a lot of time to ponder – Hanna, too. She had seen the slightly older Michael in court, had learned from a detention officer later that he had been the one who had wanted to come visit her. She knew by then, her secret must have no longer been secret to him. Michael had not made it to university for no reason. Michael had always been an intelligent kid. She knew that he must have figured it… them having been far too close.
No one in fact understood that regardless of how it looked like, it was far more intricate than "guarding" others. Nonetheless, she knew (especially later) that what she had done was far from acceptable – knew that those years locked in jail were deserved. She knew, too… that had Michael announced what she had always tried so hard to hide, she might have had to serve time less. However… had she deserved it then? Hanna didn't believe so.
Above all, she just couldn't let the last bit of pride she had be shattered. All of her life, Hanna Schmitz had been considered worthless, had had to fight for her little spot. Her role in the war had not been beneficial for how others looked at her. Ashamed as she was in regard to being illiterate, she suspected that that knowledge would merely let herself be considered as even less than worthless.
She never realized how Michael must have felt then, though – how Michael must have felt upon finding she rather suffered in jail than let the world find that she were… illiterate. One who read so easily, wrote such beautiful poetry… he couldn't possibly get it all, even if she ever had tried to make him get it.
Her mind mulled over it all often, but only a year into detention, she began to realize… that maybe Michael might have been serious with her, that maybe the reason why he cared so much then and with the case in court was that he still loved her, wanted to be with her either way.
She had thought mistakenly that he would easily move on after her, but that had not been so then.
When he came to her, all had been changed. He had been married. He had become a father. He had been part of a family, something she never had known either as a child or as a parent herself. She had often dreamed of children, but she had had to be realistic. A child of hers would never know a lot of happiness. She had only barely learned how to take care of herself. A child, she would never be able to care for. She already worked such ridiculous hours, and still she barely earned enough to care for her own needs. A child would mean more money needed, more working… and then where would the child be?
The cassettes, him coming… had created a faint hope of a semblance of what had been between both of them returning. However, when she first saw him again… she knew it would definitely not. He even pulled his hand back from hers. She was… unsurprised, of course. Hanna Schmitz had never quite considered herself beautiful at any age – not when Michael and she met, and certainly not anymore when her time to leave jail slowly came. Her hair had turned grey, and age had created serious havoc. Wrinkles. Pigment patches.
Friendship even seemed too much to ask. The very first person who she would have thought to treat her reasonably failed to do so. She couldn't bear the coldness accompanying his reasonable suggestions for work, a space to live.
She never would have blamed him or anyone, but then… she knew that when Michael even could not seem to forgive her, then who in fact could – let alone, would? If even he appeared to judge her…
She didn't want to feel like an entire fool in this world. Hanna had felt like a fool long enough already, unable to experience life through the read or written word. The thought of really doing better had kept her going through all years in prison, the thought of the mere possibility of Michael being there – especially since all those cassettes…
Life wasn't meaningless until she realized that she were, and Hanna Schmitz had just become too old to continue foolishness like that.
No nerves ran through her as she fell from the table.