From the attic, the young girl watched the elderly German couple tend their garden. She awakened each morning to the sound of the sprinklers spraying the plants. Over the weeks she watched the watermelons grow from egg-sized to plate-sized to ever-larger. The old man pulled weeds in the mornings and the old woman pulled them in the afternoon.
Sometimes when one of them was at the edge of the property nearest the house she was hiding in she could understand the voices they were so close. It was those times that she hesitated to look out of the slats in the attic vent for fear of being sensed. Even a shadow has movement, and all it would take is once for one to pick up on such movement.
Betsy had been hiding out in the vacant home for a good six weeks, ever since her mother had pointed her in the direction of it while she herself ran in the opposite direction to lead the Nazi agents away. Betsy’s heart almost jumped out of her throat it was beating so fast when she slipped into the cellar doors of the house. The last thing her mother said to her was, “Wait for me there,” before a short tight hug and a kiss on the top of Betsy’s head that dusk.
Betsy had to feel her way down the cellar steps that night and almost cried out a few times when feeling spider webs or tripping over things. She curled up under an old pump organ until dawn, then oriented herself to the cellar and the rest of the creaky old house. It was one of several homes in the small village that stood empty after “the purge.”
Betsy found canned goods hidden in the cellar that kept her fed with green beans, carrots, and peaches. On pitch black nights she would creep out and crawl, feeling in the grass where the hens sometimes hid their eggs. Pinpointing the plants with the most produce on them by day she would sneak tomatoes, peas, and swiss chard. When fall came and her mother had still not returned for her, she had her fill of apples, pears, and cherries.
Towards the end of October, when the nights were getting chill, under a moonless sky, she heard her mother’s voice, in what she thought at first was a dream. Opening her eyes, she saw it was no dream. They left the lonely house as quietly as they had come to it and headed towards the border – to freedom.