The family huddled close around the table. The flickering flames from the candle stumps made the shadows on the wall look eerie. The children exchanged nervous glances before Aira placed a warm hand over her first-born’s shoulder, and cast a reassuring smile towards his little sister. Asher, in turn, nodded at Aira, reassuring to his wife that things would be okay.
They had already packed. They were waiting for his papers, and when the fake identity was ready, they would pack a few lumps of stale cheese and dried bread too – for the children, it was a cold winter, after all. Everything was ready. The papers would arrive in three days and they would leave.
Mother was trying to stifle a cough as she tried to down the watered down broth Aira had put together, when there was a knock that sounded upon the door. Aira’s spoon clattered down into the bowl as Asher pulled his chair backward and stood up, making as much noise as was possible. Perhaps the poor man hoped it would disrupt the deafening noise of the suffocating quiet in the house. His aging mother was struggling to muffle her rasping cough.
The officers weren’t from this part of the town. Must be the ones who were transferred over, Asher thought.
Asher shuddered at how the name that had once made butterflies flutter in his abdomen, now sounded like a death sentence. The tall one with the sinister smile raised a questioning brow. He was new to the job, Asher understood. New brooms clean sweep; new S.S. soldiers did make a clean sweep.
Asher heard Aira’s gasp. Mother finally let out the rasping cough she had been muffling for days.
Asher dared answer.
The upper corner of the soldier’s lip curled in what could only be described as a menacing snarl.
The other soldier, the rather plump one, took out their ‘official papers’ and locating a name on the long list, began to pronounce the verdict, “Aira HaLevi has to evacuate the premises in two days.”
“But for what crime?! She’s innocent!” Asher said in protest.
“Cause you were born a Jew, dog!” The tall soldier stamped the statement with a resounding slap upon Asher’s pallid face.
The children had started to sob.
The soldier with the list made his pronouncement clear.
“Aira Halevi is condemned for holding a Jew hostage. That too, in premises that is rightfully the state’s.”
Asher pulled the duvet tight over his sleeping children, planting a kiss on their foreheads and kissed his mother’s hand, stroking her silver hair.
He paused next to Aira’s sleeping figure. He had agreed when Aira had pleaded that they leave immediately tomorrow – the papers be damned.
“We don’t have a choice, do we?” Asher had said.
“Sometimes there is no happy choice, darling, only one less grievous than the others,” Aira had said.
Asher made his way towards the S.S. headquarters to surrender himself for being born a Jew.
The above story is an entry into #TheChoice a Five00 entry.
Check out event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/five00-6/
Photo by Bruce Mars