My Story--mentioned in Tues
Find a Conversation
|Tue, 12-23-2003 - 9:07pm|
“Leigh, get out of that tree now.” When their was no response the boy with the devious look turned to face the large two-story brick house.
“Oh, Mrs. Marshall, have you seen Leigh anywhere? I can’t find her-unless she’s in the tree again. Mrs. Marshall…oof!” he grunted as he was shoved to the ground by a dark-haired girl whose ribbon hung askew.
“You quit telling on me, David Percy.”
“Don’t call me David Percy.” he said his face pale with anger at the hated middle name.
“Don’t tell on me, and I won’t say it.” she retorted narrowing her blue eyes. Glancing apprehensively at two boys who were walking down the street, he hastily replied, “I won’t.”
“Why do you climb trees anyway,” he continued, “Why don’t you play with dolls or have tea parties or something like my sister?”. Leigh tried to look as dignified as she could, considering that a book nearly two years older than herself had found her in a tree, and she could feel her ribbon sliding past her ear.
“I’m to old to play with dolls. Why are you in my yard? She retorted. David took two steps backward, and grinned.
“I’m not in your yard, I’m in mine. He retraced his steps. “But if I did come in your yard, it would maybe be to give you this.”
He handed an envelope to Leigh, which she opened cautiously. Inside was an invitation to David’s fifteenth birthday party two weeks away. As long as she could remember, David’s mother had always dutifully sent an invitation to Leigh, by her mother each year. Never had she been invited by David personally. “You came to invite me to your birthday?” she asked bringing her eyes up to his. David shifted his weight to another foot, and opened his mouth. What he would have said, Leigh was not to find out because an incredulous voice behind them asked,
“You’re inviting that little girl to your birthday party?” They both swung around to face Blake and Blair Hunsford. The tall fair-haired brothers were both older than David. Blake was sixteen, yet appeared older than his seventeen year old brother, because he was clearly the leader. Their family’s recent arrival had caused quite a stir in the neighborhood with the mother’s speaking in a meaningful way about “prospects“. David shrugged nonchalantly, and said, “Oh my mother has always invited her, she‘s my neighbor you know.” Leigh could feel her face flush in anger, and embarrassment. For some reason, David’s words had hurt her in a way all his maddening teasing over the years never had.
“Thank your mother for inviting me,” she said empathically, “but I think I’ll be to busy playing with dolls to come. Goodbye David--Percy” she said as she turned to walk towards her house.
“You cannot leave David off the invitation list, Leigh.” her mother said in exasperation. “His family would be insulted if we were to have a party right next door to them without a word of acknowledgement…besides you need some more young men on your list, or their will be no one to dance with.”
“Well, I’m not going to dance with him,” Leigh said stubbornly.
Her mother sighed in exasperation, “That’s fine, Leigh, I’m sure David will have no difficulty finding plenty of girls to dance with if you are rude to him, we need more young men at the party, and we’re lucky he’s here on leave.”
“Is Mrs. Steen still angry with him about joining the army?” Leigh asked curiously.
“I think she’s finally accepted that boys will always be idealistic, and easily carried away. I’m so thankful we only have girls, I wouldn’t know what to do if you’d insisted on joining the army at twenty-one. All these boys hear about how they’re going to be heroes if we get into the war, as if we would have anything to do with Europe again.”
Leigh suddenly turned serious, and said “But Mother, we should be grateful, think what might happen to us if we were invaded.”
Leigh’s mother glanced apprehensively around despite her dismissing tone, “Oh Leigh, no one knows about that, and besides we won’t get pulled into that war anyway. You‘re too young to remember when your father, and his friends came back half dead. Nobody wants to go through that again.”
“What dates were you thinking of for the party?” Leigh asked to dismiss the subject.
“I think that the third or fourth week of October would be best, and we should make this an outdoor dance. That way we can have a bonfire, and invite some of the younger girls and boys in the neighborhood like David, and Blake’s sisters. They won’t be allowed to come if it’s a formal occasion. The south field would be a nice place, then we can set up tents, and lights. Why don’t you look it over today, and decide where you want everything placed.”
Leigh went, although the knowledge that she had several assignments due at the university Monday was hanging over her. If she were to show a lack of enthusiasm for entertaining her mother would take that as a sure sign that college life had corrupted her. She would be certain once and for all that Leigh must be pulled out now before no eligible young man would think of having her. Although her mother had never said so outright, Leigh knew she was secretly embarrassed that her only daughter would turn twenty soon, and was not even engaged.
Leigh sat on one of the enormous boulders that dotted the field. As a child, she and David had dared each other to jump from one to the other, or to walk among them as the light faded and they turned into eerie shapes reminiscent of frozen giants. Leigh smiled as she recalled the only time in her life when she had not heard what a wonderful boy David was, so intelligent, and handsome for his age.
It was a month or so before the party invitation incident, and before Blake and Blair had moved to the area, she recalled. David was supposed to spend the day at her house because his parent had taken a day trip into the city. At nearly fifteen now, he considered himself to old to play with her, and so they had spent the morning and afternoon fighting in the house. Finally her parents had suggested they go outside, and she had promptly left David once they were out of view by turning and running towards the south field. She was behind one of the boulders which could easily conceal someone twice her size when he had found her, and caused her to shriek by sneaking up behind her. Somehow that childish action had broke the restraint between them, and David had forgotten he was to mature to play childish games. They began to dare each other, and David had dared her to walk through the path of boulders as it got dark. Although she did not want to admit it, at thirteen the boulders which seemed so odd looking in the near moonlight frightened her nearly as much as they had when she was younger. “That’s too easy” she had said, and walked away as if she was insulted. “You’re afraid,“ he had smiled maddeningly.
“No I’m not, I tired of playing with you, I’m going home.” she retorted. He had caught her hand and stopped her. “You have to pick one out of three, or I win”.
“Fine, what’s the second one?”.
David thought for a moment, and slowly let go of her hand. “I dare you to kiss me.” he said.
“No way, I’ll take the third one.” Leigh had tried to reply casually. Surely David had been joking when he had dared her, hadn’t her?
“Then I dare you to jump from this boulder all the way to the last one without touching the ground”. Leigh had climbed to the top of the first, and gathered her long skirt, and jumped. The first few were easy, although each time she landed it jarred her. David followed along below her watching her progress. From what David told her parents later, Leigh discovered that midway she misjudged the distance in the fading light, and landed near the edge of the boulder she was jumping to, loosing her balance and hitting her head before sliding down. Afraid to move her, he had ran to the house for help, and taken all the blame. Leigh vaguely remembered her father carrying her, and David walking beside her as her mother had screamed and ranted, and told him never to come back to the house again. Every day for a week he had shown up at the house anyway, asking if Leigh was any better. At first Leigh’s mother had not allowed him to come inside, but he father had murmured something inaudible to her which seemed to make her change her mind.
With a start Leigh realized that it was getting dark, and she had been lost in planning the party, and her memories for an hour. She prepared to jump down when she heard a young man’s voice say, “I dare you to jump from this boulder all the way to the last one without touching the ground”. Leigh self-consciously touched the small scar under her hair and said, “I think we both remember what happened the last time I tried that.” David caught her as she jumped down, and said smoothly-”Then I dare you to kiss me.” Leigh stepped aside and said icily, “You forgot about walking through the field. You have your dares in the wrong order.”
“No, I don’t, I put them in the order I want.”
“I thought the army was supposed to teach you to do what others want,” Leah said as she walked towards the house at a pace which hopefully would give him the hint that she did not want his company.
“That’s true,” David replied “What do you want?”. His grey eyes were humorous.
“I want to get home, and finish my work for Monday“, Leigh replied deeming it wiser to ignore his analytic remarks.
“Will I see you at the party then?”
Leigh stopped in surprise, “How did you know about that?”.
“How could I not hear about it, your mother tells my mother, who tells me-thank you for inviting me by the way.”
Leigh thought it best to set him straight right away. “My mother thought we should have more men for dancing.”
“I would think you would know plenty at the University that could come.” David said, not appearing to be insulted.
Leigh laughed, “everyone assumes that if a girl goes to college that it must be because she can’t find a husband. I stay far to busy to have all the social contacts you think I must have.”
David said seriously, “I’m glad to hear that. I thought you would be married, or engaged by the time I got back, so many of the old crowd are. I’ll see you at the party then, will you save a dance for me?”
Leigh had intended to lose him in the crowd at the party, and by unobtrusively ignoring him managed to avoid this very thing. However ignoring someone, and insulting them to their face were two very different things, and so she found herself assenting politely but unenthusiastically.
He said goodbye at her door, and said a few words to her friend Laura who had arrived a few minutes before, and was waiting impatiently to study German with her.
“Who was that who walked up here with you, Leigh.”
“Oh that’s just my neighbor,” she replied “He’s on leave from the army.”
“I wish he was my neighbor.“ Laura laughed “Do you think we could drop by his house, and visit after studying? Tell him you need to borrow a cup of sugar.”
Leigh’s mother smiled, and said “Why don’t you come to our party, and you can see him then, I’m sure he will be happy to have someone to dance with” she said
significantly looking at her daughter.
���I’m sure he will be.” said Leah calmly. Privately she thought that if David found a silly, careless girl like Laura attractive he was more foolish than she thought. However Laura was considered beautiful with her fashionably rolled blond hair, and expensive red lipstick. She shoved these thoughts to the back of her mind. It didn’t matter whom David choose to dance with at the party, as long as she only had to dance once with him.
“You’ll have to introduce Laura to Blake and Blair also, Leigh. They are very handsome, and they’re back from abroad to visit their parents .“ she informed Laura. “They live in England, and travel all over Europe with their father’s business, and are both very successful.”
With a promise to attend the party, Laura left later that night, and Leigh fell into bed exhausted only to spend a restless night listening to the rats in the downstairs closet. Finally getting up for a drink of water, she noticed a dim light coming from the lower regions of David’s house, and concluded that he must be playing cards with some of the local men.
The night of the party was everything Leigh’s mother hoped it to be, and Leigh even felt a sense of excitement herself. Two large white tents had been set up in the south field, while a large bonfire provided ample amusement for the younger men, and women. Chinese lanterns strung between the trees cast a soft glow over the crowd. After she got the dance with David over, she could enjoy herself Leigh thought with satisfaction. Several young men claimed her attention, and she circled the crowd speaking to her guests. Oddly David, Blake, and Blair were not in attendance. Well, no matter perhaps they were not coming. More than likely, they were holed up in David’s basement playing cards, he would be to rude to call and leave regrets saying he would not be able to make it this evening. An hour passed and David suddenly arrived, and walked straight to Laura smiling charmingly, and then beginning to dance with her. He continued to dance even when it appeared Laura wished for a break, claiming her attention each time the music started before she could protest. It appeared Leigh would not have to fulfill her obligation, since David was obviously making a fool of himself with that empty-headed flirt. Well what of it? They would make a nice couple. The boy who couldn’t be serious for one moment, and the girl who had never had a serious thought in her head. She should really let her guests enjoy themselves, and run back to the house to get her cardigan. Funny how she hadn’t noticed how much she needed it earlier.
She suddenly felt cold, very cold. The party was nearly over anyhow. Why not leave her mother to bid the guests farewell, one person wouldn‘t notice that she wasn‘t there to say goodbye anyhow. Slipping away from the party she headed back into the nearly empty house. Odd, someone was talking in a low tone, and the words sounded very strange. They almost sounded like--German. Leigh stopped suddenly as she recognized two voices, Blake and Blair, and the voices were coming from near the downstairs stair closet! With a sense of panic she fled along the hallway as quietly as she could. Squeezing into the tiny space under the stairs, and around the corner she put shaking hands against the wall until she felt the small compartment give way. The room was almost unnoticeable to someone taking a casual glance into the closet, and the compartment which held the papers even more concealed. The emigration papers were old, and the family tree even older. Papers with records of a bank in Germany were in there along with a land deed. All innocent items, except to a family which wished to hide their heritage. “Oh Jesus,” she prayed urgently, and silently “keep our family safe in this country.” Her grandfather, and mother had changed their religion as a matter of form when they changed their names, but Leigh had changed hers from an act of faith and submission. A sudden noise above her froze her hand, as she was placing the panel back. Two heavy steps were sounding above her, the two were descending from the top floor where she had heard them talking, down the stairs. The sound of steps being tested for hiding places reached her.
A women’s voice caused them to stop. Leigh felt a moment of panic as she recognized Laura’s voice calling her name. What would they do to her if she discovered them on the stairs searching the house? “Leigh, are you here?” She opened her mouth to warn her, better she should be discovered than Laura be hurt too. Hushed voices in German reached her from directly overhead. By concentrating she could translate it.
“Stop being so loud Laura, no one is here but the servants.”
“Sorry, I can’t find Leigh, she slipped away from the party.”
“I told you to watch her!” hissed Blake in annoyance.
“That Jew kept asking me to dance, and I couldn’t watch her, and him both. I’m telling you, I think the entire block here must have changed their names.”
“This whole town is overrun with them.” Blair said in disgust, ”but you can’t list them unless you have paperwork. “
“We need to leave.” Laura said urgently “almost everyone has left the party. Next time I’ll come back to the house, and you two can keep an eye on the party.”
“I didn’t think it would be so hard to watch two people. If you would have made her jealous like you were suppose to, then maybe she would have stayed.” Blake said as they descended the stairs.
“How was I to know he wouldn’t leave me alone, I thought you said he had always been crazy about her”.
Leigh crept cautiously out. Walking silently to the back door, she crept out. David might still be at the party, and she had to warn him before she decided whom she should go to with what she had just heard. She could not let him have those people over at his house for one more night knowing what they were.
Walking silently through the garden, she glanced over towards his house and decided that he must still be at the field. A sudden movement startled her, and she prepared to run out of sheer instinct.
“Leigh stop, it’s me.”.
In relief she turned and saw David, but standing beside him was Blair.
Her horror showed before she could masked it, and Blair laid a hand reassuringly on her arm.
“It’s alright, Leigh, I saw you when you came in, and told David where you’ve been, and what you’ve heard. “ I told the others I would wait for you, and make sure you were accounted for before we went to David’s. “
“There’s not much time to explain, David said, “and not much I’m allowed to explain, but in England, and every occupied country the Germans have a list of Jews. Since we will be getting into the war soon, no matter what others say, listing has begun in secret. Blake and Blair are just one of many listers, but Blair’s loyalty is to America, although his family does not realize that-- which makes him a valuable asset. He reports to me, and I report to others.”
“I have to go now“, Blair interjected, “They will be expecting me at your house.” he said with a smile as he turned to leave.
“I never realized all those years that we went to the same church, and schools that you were Jewish” Leigh whispered. “Is that why you joined the army right away?”
“Yes, although it’s not my religion, it is a part of who I am,” David replied seriously. “I felt God calling me to protect his people in some way, and so I left right after I turned twenty-one, even though there were people I hated to leave behind.”
Leigh looked up, “I think I was angry at you for leaving, although I pretended that I didn’t care. I thought I was just the little girl who grew up next to you, and always would be, and you would come back married, or just forget all about me.”
“I could never forget about you, Leigh. Long ago I told your father that when I grew up I was going to marry you.
Leigh felt a tear slip down her face, and said “I have just one question for you.”
“What is that?” he said.
She laughed through her tears and said, “What are you doing in my yard?”.
David’s old mischievous smile from when he was a boy returned. “I’m not in your yard. I‘m in mine” he replied stepping backwards.
He returned. “But if I was to come into your yard, it maybe would be to give you this”, he said before he kissed her.