A/N Here's the epilogue, I cried a bit, well a lot, writing this chapter and I hope you all won't hate me so much!
Four years later…
My fingers skim the keys of the typewriter as I finish my next piece. This one's a piece on how education in public schools should be less tough. I write for the local newspaper, where I live in Manhattan, New York. It's a simple job, but it pays well and I can feed my daughter healthily.
Ilse. I look out of the window at my little girl, who is chasing around a squirrel in our garden. Ilse Wendy Bergman-Gabor. Four years old, and yet still so much older. Her dark brown, curly hair tumbles over her powder blue dress and she giggles as she trips over a root. How much she looks like her mother. She has the same smile, the same eyes. Those eyes that I lost.
I suppose that I saw it coming. I had realized earlier that Wendla was perhaps too fragile to be able to get through the trip with a child. Her fever got worse, she got weaker and died a year after we arrived in America. Now she lies in a nearby cemetery. Ilse and I visit her often. I don't think Ilse really understands who her mother is, but one day, I will tell her everything. For now, I let her believe what she wants.
Wendla and I gave Ilse her first name, and then when Wendla passed, I gave her her second name, the American version of Wendla, Wendy. There's an English book, a very good book, called Peter Pan, and one of the characters is called Wendy. I read it to Ilse most nights and she giggles whenever she hears that name.
I suppose that I gave her the name to keep Wendla living, but I didn't need to. She's so much like Wendla, not just in appearance, but in the way she goes about. She talks like her, walks like her, she even has the same singing voice as her. But there will never will be another Wendla.
I tried meeting other women, mainly for Ilse's sake, to give her a motherly figure but I couldn't hold on to anybody. They were always too loud or too tall or too possessive or Ilse didn't like her. It took me a while to realize that the only problem was that they weren't Wendla.
Everyone's telling me that I'm doing a good job raising her, but I still think that Ilse needs her mother. I try my best, but there's only so much that a father can do.
Ilse goes to a Montessori kindergarten school, one of the first ones in America. I wanted her to go to a school where she wouldn't have to bow to authority, like Wendla and I did. I want her to enjoy learning and growing up and that school was perfect.
We live in a small house, two bedrooms, a lavatory and a kitchen but it's cozy and there's a garden with trees and flowers and an old lady who lives next door who helps me a lot with Ilse. Ilse spends most of her time outside, playing with the occasional squirrel or rabbit and picking out blue flowers for me to put in our nice vase on the dinner table.
She is my only joy in this world. My job, my money, my life, I would give it all up just so that she can be well and happy with that smile on her face. I will never act to her as Martha's father acted to Martha, never. I would hate myself too much if I did.
"Papa!" I hear a sobbing cry and Ilse runs through the garden door, clutching her knee, tears streaming down her face. I climb off the chair and kneel to her height.
"What happened, Ilse?"I say, wiping her cheeks with a handkerchief.
"I scraped my knee!" She sobs, moving her hand away, where I can see a scratch forming, oozing a tiny bit of blood.
I smile at her and kiss her on the forehead. "Come here, let's see what we can do for that." I pick her up and carry her over to sit on the kitchen counter. She swings her legs around as I look in the drawer for a clean rag and wet it with some cool water to dab on it. Ilse cringes a bit when it makes contact with the wound but otherwise she stays calm and collected.
"There, you see? It wasn't so bad." I say, wrapping a clean cloth around her leg. "Now, come and sit with me on the sofa and wait for it to get better, alright?"
She nods and jumps down off the counter. I gently guide her back through the kitchen door to the sofa and pull her onto my lap.
"Papa?" She murmurs.
"Yes, Wendy?" I say and she giggles a bit, before turning back to her serious self.
"Can you tell me another story about my Mama?" she asks resting her head against my neck.
"Alright, which one do you want?" I ask, kissing her on the top of her head.
"Umm, the one where you were playing pirates, and my Mama was a princess!" she exclaims and I begin the story.
I tell her all these stories, in hopes that she'll decipher who her mother was. But one day I will tell her everything. About Germany, about Moritz and Ilse, about our mothers, about our school, about our lives up until the moment that she was born. Then, I'll tell her about her mother. How her mother was the only love that I'll ever have and how she reminds me more and more of her every day. How her mother isn't truly gone.
But for now, I let her dream, let her wonder about anything and everything, let those wide eyes imagine the world for herself.
I hope that she can imagine the better world that I pray that I have built for her.
A/N There it was! Spring and Summer is officially finished! Thank you to all the lovely people who have been favoriting this story and adding it to their alerts and everyone who has been reviewing.
And incredibly enormous thank you to MRSCULLEN1122 who has been fantastic while I have been writing, boosting my confidence so much! x
I'm legit crying right now, this was my favorite story ever to write!