It was summer. A cool wind was blowing and the trees were in full bloom. I was enjoying the serenity around me when someone cycled past me. She looked at me sideways and smiled. Vivian -- the school’s heartthrob and my greatest enemy. I never knew her personally and yet something about her made me hate her. In an effort to defeat her, I pushed myself to pedal faster. Surprisingly, she joined the race too. Both of us, edge to edge, not ready to admit defeat. I was full of confidence on victory, until that wretched turn that made me fall and plunge into defeat.
I reached school flushed and tired, filled with a sense of anger and disappoint. All day I couldn’t help but think of her. Vivian, the most charismatic and perfect person I had ever met. Always surrounded by her group of girlfriend or minions I would say and was known for her string of boyfriends. She was good at almost everything, be it being the top of the class or being the teacher’s pet. Strangely I had known her since birth as we were neighbours, yet for her I was like the pebble on the street.
Maybe that’s why I was always haunted by the spirit of getting better than her. We used to try to find out who was better in things. She enjoyed the competitive streak. One day as I was having my lunch she came to me.
"Hey there, George,"
Surprised, I answered her with a silence.
"I’m not going to eat you, I brought my own lunch," she laughed. And sat beside me and started talking about random things. I was spellbound by her smile and cheekiness. I began to feel a sense of warmth with her. Irony was that, though I hated her I did enjoy her presence. I began to feel the beginning of something that I would always look back to.
Then soon the war broke out. A time of fear and poverty began. It was especially tough for the Jews as they were ostracised and were segregated. Jews were told to separate schools and many of my classmates left, with it went Vivian. Just like they say you never know what you have until you lose it. I began to miss her. Her midnight black hair and her sparkling eyes, made the stars in the velvet black sky look dull. I realised that I was very much in love with her and my hatred towards her was actually my way of admitting that she could never be mine. I knew I would never see her again as those who go into hiding are never seen again.
The war was at it epitome. I had decided to join the army and my first posting as a German officer was at the Auschwitz concentration camp-the pandemonium of evil and death. I can’t help but admit I did enjoy being there. To know that you were the commander of the lives of many, being the harbinger of death I felt like God, himself. The camp contains Jews, Roma, and all those who were considered unfit for the Aryan empire. I was the block fuehrer which meant I had complete control of all the prisoners in my camp.
Just like that one fine day while I was receiving the roll calls among the prisoners I saw a familiar face- a thin weak figure. All day I couldn’t help but wonder who it was suddenly as if it was fate or destiny whatever you may call it, it was Vivian, my Vivian was with me and like before she was with me and yet so far. I knew I had won in life compared to her and yet for the first this was a victory that I was willing to give away. Now the powers I had pride in rendered me weak and cold. I saw her; she was weak thin and her sunken eyes. She looked like a wandering soul seeking penance. Her prisoner’s clothing hung over her meek figure, it being too heavy for her to bear. I knew I had to help her and that I had little time in my hand, as no one survives for long in these camps.
One night the last roll call after dinner I arrested her for wasting food. I announced to my fellow officers she was sentenced to the gas chambers. She was neither scared nor sad, maybe living here and the horror of the war leaves you so. Even though she didn’t really look like her former self all my eyes could see was the old Vivian, the one rippled with fun and laughter that would curl ones toes. I was filled with joy for at last I had her with me, maybe even the shrouds of darkness, one could find streaks of light after all. I snuck her into my chambers. She was confused by what was happening. “It’s me George, your former classmate, remember?” “George? Is that you?” said Vivian in a surprised meek tone. "So you are to have my last breath and finally win?” her lips trembled.
“No never in a thousand world no. This war may have turned me into a killing machine but now seeing you. I feel as if I’m in a purgatory, ready to repent for sins that this lifetime can’t mend.”
I could feel the fear that wrapped her and trust may still be miles away but I knew she had no other options either but to have faith in me. “Here have some food. It must have been so long since you had anything proper to eat” and I gave her some bread and porridge.
She ate with dignity. I saw her once so sparkling eyes now moist with tears. "Luck doesn’t begin to explain this. I don’t know how to express this kindness even if it’s a one day wonder.” she sobbed.
I felt so helpless and lost for words that wouldn’t dare come out.
She told about her life before coming here.
"My father believed that we would be better off doing what we were told. He felt that it was dangerous to choose a different option. He was also right to do so. But this was not a guarantee that a safe place existed. Above all, the camps were really bad, but we had a chance to survive, because we were young and strong. My father was not going to go into hiding. My mother wanted to go into hiding, but opted in favour of my father. I wanted to go into hiding. In the end, and after much discussion, I had the support of my mother and I was going to go into hiding. Full of enthusiasm and I hoped that I would be saved we had to go into hiding. A friend of my father helped us. Life was pretty dull but it was better than getting arrested. Until we were betrayed. My family was brought first to a camp where me and my mother were separated from my father. That was the last time I saw him,” she wept and she continued “then at the next place we were forced to work all day and conditions were harsh. Mother was becoming weaker and weaker. We had to bear it all, hoping one day we would be liberated. Fate had other plans. I was once again separated from my family and was finally brought here”.
She looked at me with despair.
“Now I count my days, wishing that at least death would be kind and set me free. And pray to god that one day I would see my family again in this life or afterlife,"she said hanging her heavy head.
I held her close and whispered in her ears. “Just stay strong Vivian and have a little faith in me. I promise I will let you find a safe haven soon.”
She looked at me with a sense of shock.
“Why are you helping a miserable slave like me? After all I was never in your good books. You hated me as long I remember,” she said.
“I did. Like they say grapes were sour. It was my way of running from the truth of how much crazy I was about you. I knew I didn’t have a chance of with you or in being your friend. But I wanted to be in your life so much, that I was willing to take the role of the despicable enemy,” I confessed.
Her lips curved to a smile and she gave a peck on my cheeks and said nothing.
All night I was deep in thinking on how to get her to safety. I saw her again the next day and she was bit better perhaps knowing that she did have a ray of hope. With great difficulty I made her a fake passport and identity. And in the following days I bought her new clothes and all essentials. All preparations were made. I had to take her out of the camp without anyone noticing it. Somehow I managed to bring her to my place and gave her the new clothes and things.
"What’s all this?” She stared at me baffled.
“It’s your escape route. Take it. Put on these clothes and I will take to you to the nearest port. There you will find a ship heading for New York. It will take you to safety and you can start your life fresh there,” I consoled her.
After wearing her new clothes and putting a bit of powder she started looking like her former self. We boarded my car and started our journey to the port. I felt butterflies in my stomach and had the fear of being caught. If caught I knew all would end for me and her. I would be charged of treason and would be sentenced to death. And Vivian, I didn’t even want to think what would happen to her. On the way we were checked.
“I’m an SS officer. I don’t think checking would be necessary. I’m on my way to drop my sister,” I said showing them my identity as they went on to check my car. Vivian acted cool and confident.
"I’m sorry sir for stopping you. Hope you have a wonderful journey madam," the guard responded. He saluted and let us continue with our journey to freedom.
Finally we managed to reach the port safe. I helped her board the ship. I knew this was our final goodbye. A part of was loathing and grieving for letting her go again, and a part of me was filled with joy and happiness knowing that she would be safe somewhere, alive and breathing and that was more important.
“I guess this it. Take care of yourself. Hope you be safe”. That was all I could manage to say..
“Words can’t seem to describe how grateful I am to you. I never really had a chance to even know you, to know that kindness that you are so full of and to repay for all I had done to you and I shall forever be burdened with that baggage, until my every last breath. I shall remember you and pray to God to always be with you. Farewell.” She hugged me.
Though filled with emotions all I could say was that I loved her. Her lips kissed my cold lips and she left without saying anything. Maybe some things are better left unsaid.. And I was left there all alone with the warmth of her lips and the cold that surrounded me.. Though I did lose her, standing there I felt a feeling of victory run through my blood.