Zoe’s Journal: Surviving The Peace
(C) 2017 Mary D. Brooks | All Rights Reserved
October 29, 1944 – Evening
On the outskirts of the village of Farsala and only a few miles from the Lambros farm at dusk
I was getting too morose as the day dragged on, and my ankle had swollen up after my rampage through the streets to get to Eva. Despite my ankle, I just had to get up and walk around. I’ve never been one to just sit down for long periods of time. Unless, of course, I was waiting to ambush German soldiers. I’m not going to be doing that now. Eva was asleep, the nurses were doing their afternoon rounds, and the Australian soldier that I wanted to talk to was fast asleep too. As I walked through the ward to get out, my stomach rumbled.
I walked out into semi-darkness. There was a sliver of light on the horizon peeking through the clouds. I would have admired the view if I wasn’t hungry.
“Is Eva asleep?”
I looked around when I heard Thanasi’s voice and found him leaning on the crates. I almost didn’t recognize him. He had shaved off his beard right after I had seen him earlier. “She was when I came out here. What happened to your face? Did a razor attack you?”
Thanasi laughed. “I haven’t shaved in four years; I thought I might see what was under there.” He put his arm around me and I wondered what he was doing. I sure hope he wasn’t about to tell me how Anthony was sweet on me or something as silly.
“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something. I made a promise to Father Haralambos about taking care of you, and I’m determined to keep it. I promised him that you and Eva would leave Greece.”
“Big promise to make.” I already knew of his promise to Father H which I thought was going to be impossible to make happen. One just doesn’t promise something like that in the middle of a war. “Father H said the same thing to me.”
“This is your home–”
“Was my home. Home is where you have family. I have no family.”
“I also have lost family, Zoe, and I found that the men and women who fought with me became my family. We relied on each other.”
“Well, in that case, the only family I have is Eva and Henry.”
“If they are your family, you can’t stay in Greece. It’s not safe for them. I’ve already heard reports of retribution against collaborators…”
If I wasn’t so tired, I would have smacked him with the piece of timber that was lying at my feet. “Henry and Eva are not collaborators.”
“They are German.”
I was about to tell him that Eva wasn’t really a full German since her real father was a Greek, but what was the point? I was beginning to rethink my original idea of bending down and picking up the piece of timber. “Thanasi, you know better than anyone that Henry and Eva worked for the Resistance. They were working with us.”
“I’m aware of that, but others are not. You are also in danger.”
Have you ever had that moment when you hear something so crazy that you are lost for words? Well, I was lost for words. That hardly ever happened, but here I was, hearing a leader of the Resistance cell that I fought with say that I could be a collaborator. The world has gone crazy.
“Are you going to say something or just stare at me?”
“I’m debating with myself whether I should shoot you with your gun.”
Thanasi burst out laughing. I wasn’t joking about shooting him.
“You make me laugh, Zoe. Come, sit down.” Thanasi pulled over a crate for me and then found one for himself and sat down. “I know that wasn’t an idle threat, but the danger is real.”
“I know it is. I heard about Maria Kalambakos.”
“Don’t mourn for collaborators. She deserves what happened to her.”
“I know you don’t know me very well, Thanasi, but I executed my cousin for being a collaborator. I would have strung up the rope and hung Kalambakos myself. I have no sympathy for collaborators.”
“I didn’t say you did…”
“Right. Well, I’m tired, hungry and my ankle hurts. I’m not in a good mood. Now you’re talking about Eva and Henry being in danger…”
“Listen to me. You should take care of yourself first. Eva and Henry are not your responsibility. You fought with them, but they are not Greek.”
“They risked their lives to save Greek Jews. I would say that makes them honorary Greeks.”
“Honorary or not, they have targets on their backs.”
“So, what do you want me to do? Abandon them? I’m not going to do that. The other option is to leave Greece. That’s what I’m planning on doing as soon as Eva and Henry are well enough to travel. We will get on a truck that’s leaving for Athens and then find passage on a ship.”
“I will escort you to Athens myself. The leadership is meeting in Athens in a week and there is much to discuss.”
“Eva’s not ready to travel in a week. What’s there to decide? The war is won, we get the British out of the country, the King comes back…”
“Prime Minister Papandreou is back and we are set to decide our future. We get to decide if the King comes back.”
“Not me. I don’t want to stay to decide anything other than how to get out of here. I’ve had enough of politics and war.”
“I’m a warrior for my country, Zoe. When my country needs me, I am there.”
“The war is over; don’t start another one. Our countrymen are going to vote to bring the King back.”
“No, little one, that’s never going to happen. The war is not over just because the Germans have left.”
I was so tired I really didn’t want to listen to him, but he had saved Eva’s life by getting the Resistance to attack the cabin, so I feigned interest. “Which side are you on?”
Thanasi looked up at the Greek flag that fluttered in the wind. “On the right side. We have no use for the King anymore.”
“Well, that’s not my problem.”
Thanasi looked around before he turned to me. He was quite serious and I wasn’t sure what he was afraid of.
“The British are not our friends. I don’t trust Papandreou or the British.”
“More conflict, more death. Not what I want.”
“I intend to keep my promise to Father Haralambos.”
“We can’t leave in a week. It’s impossible, but we will find a way out. It’s not your responsibility, Thanasi. I know you promised Father H, but you don’t have to go through with it.”
“A promise is a promise.”
I felt my stomach lurch as I heard those words. A promise is a promise. I tried not to let the overwhelming sadness that wanted to take root in my heart overcome me. Those were the last words I said to my father. A promise is a promise. I wanted him to promise he was going to come back after taking the Australians across the gorge. He didn’t promise me that. I should focus on Thanasi, who obviously had the same ethos when it came to promises.
“Father H would understand,” I managed to say, although my voice sounded strange to my ears.
Thanasi put his hand on my shoulder and leaned in. “I will make arrangements for a truck whenever you are ready. Trust me, I will organise it. When you leave Athens, where are you going to go?”
“Evy, Henry and I are going to find a ship to sail to Australia.”
“They are men with honor. They came to our aid when we needed them, and when the Allies were here, my father took care of some wounded Australians. I liked them and they told me stories about their country. It’s as far away from this madness as we can get.”
“Greeks are men with honor, too, but I know what you are trying to say. I think Father Haralambos would want you to go somewhere that’s as far away from here as possible, and Australia is very far away.” Thanasi got up from the crate and kissed me on the forehead. “I’m going to check up on a few of the boys and see how they are faring.”
I watched him leave knowing he was relieved that he didn’t have to carry out Father H’s wishes. Organizing a truck was easier than taking care of two Germans and a teenager. Thanasi’s predicament was soon forgotten when my stomach rumbled again. I needed some food, so I headed to the makeshift mess tent. I must say British food is almost as bad as starving. I found a spot near the back of the tent and sat down to eat something that looked like stewed meat, but I wasn’t sure.
“Eat it; it won’t kill you.”
I turned to see Henry was leaning against the table. I was about to chastise him for not being in bed resting his leg when I realized he was speaking in Greek. I understood why he was doing it, but I hadn’t realized how far his Greek language skills had come. Eva was an excellent teacher, although Henry’s accent was clearly foreign.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to you about what happened…”
“We went on a search and rescue mission, you shot an idiot, I shot another idiot, and all is well.”
“Really?” Henry asked dubiously. “Killing Reinhardt–”
“It had to be done.”
“You could have let me do it,” Henry whispered in German.
I couldn’t help but laugh at Henry’s chivalrous offer. “You’re too sweet,” I said and leaned against his shoulder. “Thank you, Henry. I should thank you for shooting Barkow.”
“That bastard. He got what he deserved.”
“Are you going to get into any trouble with the British?”
“Not over Barkow.” Henry shook his head. “Thanasi told them what Eva and I were doing and about the rescue.”
“What about Eva? It’s not the same for her because of that beast of a father of hers.”
“Thanasi told the British about our activities but I am still technically a POW until they decide what to do about me.”
“A POW that can hobble around without any guards?”
“Yes, but I’m under strict orders to stay within the confines of the hospital until my status is officially clarified.”
“When will that be?”
“I don’t know. I should be in a POW camp.”
“So, Eva is a POW as well?”
“No, she’s a civilian, but she doesn’t have any identity papers since the house was blown up. I’m not sure what they are going to do. We just have to wait and see.”
“Surely they can’t stick you in a POW camp.”
“Of course they can. I don’t know what the British Captain is going to do, but I hope it’s not a POW camp.”
“I’ll break you out and then we can go to Egypt.” It was a joke, of course, but if I should need to rescue Henry, I am going to do it.
“I’m quite sure if they locked me up in the most secure POW camp, you will find a way to get me out.”
“Well, of course.”
Henry sat down next to me and waited for some soldiers to pass us. “If the worst happens and they do put me in a POW camp…”
“We will go wherever they take you, Henry.”
“More than likely down by the river, because that’s where the POW camp is right now. You and Eva will need to leave Larissa without me.”
I did not like where this conversation was heading. Either Henry had been told that’s where he was going and he didn’t want to tell me or he was being pessimistic. “I’m not leaving you behind.”
My calm demeanor (well, what passes as calm demeanor for me) had evaporated and now I was angry. Angry at Henry, at the British, at malaka Hitler and everyone else. I hopped off the bench and stared into Henry’s blue eyes. “No. I’m not leaving you behind. You are my brother in the Resistance. I will not leave a brother behind. Do you understand me?”
Henry clasped his hands on either side of my arms and pulled me towards him. “Zoe, I will always love you for your fierceness and passion. I understand your anger and I don’t want you to leave me behind, but we have to think of Eva.”
“Do you honestly think Eva will say this is all right?”
“No, but if we don’t have a say…”
“We will have a say,” I responded through gritted teeth. My anger was building and I had twisted my arm trying to get out Henry’s grasp but he was stronger than me. “Let me go.”
“Threatening the British commander is not going to get us what we want.”
“I’m not going to threaten him. I’m going to tell him what you and Evy did in the Resistance.”
“Thanasi will handle that for us. The British will listen to a Resistance commander.”
“What happens if they don’t?”
“Then you and Eva will have to leave Larissa for Athena’s Bluff or go to the farm until the war is over.”
“While you rot in a POW camp?”
“If it comes to that, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. First let’s wait and see what the British do and then we will worry about what might happen. For right now, Eva needs you because, other than me and Thanasi, you are the only friend she has. I know you may be scared…”
“I wouldn’t count on Thanasi being around to help us. What am I supposed to be scared about?”
“I thought you might be uncertain about what happened at the house.”
I stared at him for a long moment. I wasn’t sure if Henry knew the truth about Eva kissing me or what happened afterwards. Or if he was referring to the kissing at all. “The house got blown up; what’s there to be scared about? I’ve exploded a few houses in my time and seen them explode. That’s not going to unsettle me.”
Henry looked around the mess hall and turned back to me. He leaned in and whispered. “I know what happened. Evy told me.”
“If I feared what happened at the house between us, do you think I would have tried to save her life? I’m more scared for her than me.”
“That’s the problem. If she acts on those feelings she has for you, I don’t know what’s going to happen to her. You have to put a stop to this, Zoe.”
I loved Henry even though we got off to a rocky start, and I know he truly loved Eva and I suspect he was in love with her. I understand why he was asking me to end a relationship that hasn’t even progressed beyond a kiss, but I didn’t want to end whatever it was, and I knew that it wasn’t something I could control. What I wanted to say was ‘No, I’m in heavy like and I want to pursue it’ but instead I nodded in agreement.
“I’m her friend, Henry. That’s all I am.”
“No, that’s not all that you are. You are one of the rare people that Eva has let into her life. She took a huge risk when she did what she did. She trusts you and that means a great deal.”
“Well, she has two good friends that will help her.”
“That’s good, or else I will have to shoot you.”
I laughed at the reference to my first conversation with Henry when I went to work for Eva. He threatened to shoot me daily – I irritated him every day and sometimes I did things just to annoy him. “It’s a good thing I didn’t know how good a marksman you were.”
“Not really, but I harbored a desire of being a sniper. That never happened, although I think my aim is better than your rock throwing.”
“I think the blood loss from your leg has affected your head. My rock throwing is perfect. Need I remind you that I hit Eva squarely in the back of the head despite you and that idiot Barkow?”
“That was beginner’s luck.” Henry chuckled and put his arm around my shoulders. “I’m glad it was a rock and not a bullet.”
“Yeah, me too. She didn’t deserve to die. So, tell me how you got the job of guarding Eva.”
“I was given the job by Muller. I was his driver and he wanted someone he could trust to guard Eva.”
“And to spy on her.”
“Of course. Eva had a habit of leaving without her guards and Muller thought it was going to get her killed.”
“Did he suspect Eva was collaborating with the Resistance?”
“He didn’t share that with me. He wanted me to be her personal guard and to drive her.”
“He wasn’t a very smart man,” I said and made Henry laugh because we both knew how true that was. His daughter was collaborating with the French and then the Greeks. Did he suspect or did he only care that she wasn’t a lesbian anymore? I don’t really care anymore since the bastard was dead. I decided to change the subject because any talk about Muller was bound to get me upset. I had better things to think about and that was to travel to Australia.
“I want to go Australia. Start a new life there and away from all of the insanity here.”
“That’s far away from here, all right.”
“Before everything went crazy, Evy and I talked about what we were going to do after the war ended. I don’t know much about the country, but the soldiers my father helped were good people. Evy said she would follow me to Australia. I want you to come with us.”
“Australia is on the other side of the world. We have to get out of Greece first.”
“I know that, but once we do, we will get on a ship and sail to Australia.”
“That’s in the future. Let’s see what happens to me and then we can work on a plan on getting out of Greece. The war is still going on in the islands, and even if it wasn’t, we don’t have papers to travel.”
“I know a good forger.” It took a moment for Henry to understand my joke and laugh. Eva’s skills were impressive, but somehow I didn’t think we would get away with it like we did with the Germans.
“So, will you come to Australia with us?”
Henry brought me close and kissed the top of my head. “You just won’t quit, will you? No matter what I say, you will persist until you get an answer. I will stay and escort you both to Egypt until you are safely away on that ship to Australia, and then I’ll head back to Germany and see what is left.”
“Of course. Are you married? You’ve never mentioned your girl back home.”
“No, no girlfriend,” Henry replied with a slight shrug.
“Time to find a girl, isn’t it?”
Henry got up from the chair and brought his crutches towards him. “Yes, but I have to look after my two girls here first,” he replied. “Now I’ve been told by some bossy Greek that I need to go and rest.”
“Eva, you were born under a lucky star to have a friend like that,” I said out loud and found myself making the cross. Old habits. Muller had been beaten by two kindred spirits that he arranged to spend as much time with each other as possible. I attempted to eat the rest of the rations, but whatever it was, it was unappealing. I threw it away and made my way back to the hospital tent and sat down. My ankle was aching, I needed to take a bath and a good night’s sleep. Just as I had sat down, Eva turned her head and looked at me.
“You should go and rest.”
“Did I wake you?”
“No.” Eva smiled. “You look exhausted. Have you had any food?”
“I am, and if you can call the ration I just tried to eat, food, then yes, I had some of it. I also had a chat with Thanasi about our plans.”
“To go to Australia. Remember you said you would go with me to Australia?” I was getting worried by the look on her face – I was unsure if she had forgotten what she had said.
“I remember that.”
“Good, because we will be on the first truck out of here when you are well so we can go to Egypt. Or do you want to go back to Germany?” I asked the question I was hoping would get a resounding ‘no.’ I didn’t want to go to Germany.
“Not Germany. That’s not home.”
“Alright, we set sail for Australia.”
“Australia, it is,” Eva replied and shut her eye again.
After a brief silence, I leaned in and whispered. “I asked Henry if he wants to come with us but he said he didn’t want to go to Australia but—”
“He wants to go back home,” Eva whispered back. She opened her good eye and smiled on seeing my surprise that she would know what Henry and I had discussed. Maybe it was something they had talked about after she agreed to come with me. I fussed around her while she made faces at me for being bossy. We made small talk while I tried to get comfortable. It was getting late and I knew I would have to go. I had been sleeping on a chair near Evy for a few nights but now it was time to go back to my house. I stood to leave when Eva caught my hand and stopped me.
“What happened to Jurgen?”
Is there an easy way of telling Eva that I killed her fiancé? I didn’t think there was, so I decided to just be blunt. “I killed him. He was taking away a dear friend and I wasn’t going to let him do that.”
I made quite a show of being annoyed, but I knew why she was asking such a question. “Yes, you are. I don’t go rampaging down the streets for just anyone. I’m not sorry I did it. He was going to kill you.”
Eva was about to answer when she stopped. A nurse had started to make a bed nearby and we waited until she finished before resuming our conversation. Eva turned to me and her eye was glistening with tears.”
“Zoe, we need to talk about…”
“No, we don’t need to talk about that now.”
“Yes, we do. I’ve been thinking about this today.”
“Well, that’s one of your problems. You think too much.”
I tried to lighten the mood, and although in my heart I wanted to know the answer to the question about what we were going to do about ‘us,’ Henry’s admonition to me had been loud and clear.
“Zoe, I can’t give you what you need.”
I leaned forward and stared into her eye. “How do you know what I need? I don’t even know.”
“You deserve someone who loves you. Someone who will take care of you and make you happy.”
“I need someone to love me? I already have you and Henry in my life. What more do I need?”
Yes, I was being silly. Of course, I knew what she was talking about, and by the look on her face, she was wondering if I was dumb enough not to understand.
“I love you, but I can’t show it. I’m useless to you,” Eva whispered as the tears rolled down her face. I reached out and wiped them with my fingers. I rested my palm against her face and she leaned into it. I almost kissed here right there.
“I’m in ‘heavy like’ and I don’t know if that is like being in love. I’ve never been in ‘heavy like’ or love or anything like that. I do know I care about you. You’re not useless to me.” I looked around and waited for the nurse to pass us before I turned back to see her tears streaming down her face again. She wiped them away and looked away from me. Eva is a stubborn woman and I know she probably had thought about this conversation all day. She was determined to give me what she thought I needed.
“What if we take it really slowly? Snail pace slow.”
“You’ve never taken anything at snail pace slow,” Eva managed to say before her voice broke, but I could see she was trying not to cry again.
“There is always a first time,” I joked but for me, at that very moment, I was determined that I could wait an eternity if need be. I wasn’t going to wait that long, because we were going to find a way to break through that conditioning. “We are best friends until we get the help that you need to break free of Muller’s curse.”
Eva shook her head slowly and I knew my suggestion was stupid, but then what is there to say to something like that? How could being best friends be better than loving someone ‘that way’?
“If I could…”
“I know you can’t and I’m not asking you to. Let’s get you out of here and then we can just worry about getting out of Greece.”
We fell silent because there isn’t much we can say about the brutality that was done to her mind and body. One day we were going to find a way to reverse what those monsters did. It’s just a matter of finding the right person. We will find that person. If not in Greece, then in Australia.
“Reinhardt told me that Muller killed my mother.”
“He said that Muller,” Eva stopped for a moment before continuing, “killed her because he found out I was–”
“That’s rubbish. Don’t believe that bastard. He only said it to hurt you.”
“What if it’s true?”
“It’s not true.” I pulled the blanket to cover Eva; anything to be busy and not think about the bastard. “Your father was a beast of a man but he loved your mama and I don’t believe he hurt her.”
“You think so?”
“I know so.”
“I wish I were so sure of that as you are. What happened to Muller?”
“Leftheri bombed the house–”
“Yes, very dead.”
“What about Despina?”
“Don’t worry. Despina was taken out of the house before that. We found out that Athens had fallen and then all hell broke loose. Even little Paul…he climbed the flagpole and tore down the swastika and put the ‘blue and white’ up. I didn’t see it, but when Dimitri told me, it brought tears to his eyes. Then the British rumbled into town and here we are. Now, I think we’ve talked too much. Just be quiet and rest.” For once, Eva didn’t object to my being bossy with her and she closed her eye.
I didn’t want to sleep at the hospital. I found myself a stick and fashioned it into a makeshift cane and headed for Athena’s Bluff. I needed some real food and some sleep. Tomorrow I can worry about how we are going to get out of Greece, but not tonight.
We survived the war…let’s hope we can survive the peace.
To Be Continued | Read Previous Chapters
Forbidden love, heart racing suspense, an epic tale set in war ravaged Greece.
In Nazi-occupied Greece, Eva and Zoe — one a German officer’s daughter, the other a young Greek woman filled with fury — should be enemies. But when fate brings them together, they discover a love that transcends the barriers between them.
Fourteen year old Zoe Lambros’ faith in God is shattered after her mother’s death at the hands of the German Commander. She determines to defy the enemy in every way she can–including a festering urge to kill the German Commander’s daughter, Eva Muller.
Eva Muller has a tortured past, and a secret, if revealed, will lead to certain death at the hands of her father. Despite knowing the risk, Eva is working with the village priest to help the Jews escape. With her activities closely observed, Eva needs help to continue the clandestine operation. Zoe is not who Eva has in mind but they have to find a way to work as a team to accomplish their life saving mission.
– Finalist: Fiction – Historical – Event/Era – 2015 Readers’ Favorite
– Finalist Gay/Lesbian Fiction – International Book Awards 2015
– Finalist First Novel – IAN (Independent Author Network) Book Of The Year Awards 2015
– Finalist Outstanding Historical Fiction – IAN (Independent Author Network) Book Of The Year Awards 2015