Recap: Bayla overhears Mr. Zabinski tell her father that Germany may attack Poland.
The next day, I was strolling home from shul with Papa. “Please explain. Why does Germany want to attack us?”
Papa stroked his beard as he strolled beside me. “We have to daven that it won’t happen, but there’s an evil man in charge. You know about Hitler.”
The scary voice on the radio.
“He is full of hate and he wants to take over the world and to—” Papa hesitated.
“I heard Mr. Zabinski say something about Jews.”
“Bayla, just daven.”
On Sunday, Mimi and I were helping Mama shell peas when Ella appeared at the door. “Ella!” I screamed, and ran over to hug her. “You never come back so early in the summer.”
“We changed plans. Can you come to my house? I want to show you something we picked up in the country.”
“May I go, Mama?”
“If Mimi doesn’t mind finishing this job.”
“It’s okay,” Mimi said.
We strolled down the block. Ella’s long braid swung as she walked. She wore a new, beige pleated skirt with a short matching jacket.
“How was the country?” I asked.
“It was fun. Miriam and Esther came with their families, too. We swam every day. I wish you could come.”
“Me, too,” I said.
“All summer I complained to Mama that you were away. Best friends shouldn’t be separated for a whole summer,” I said.
“I agree but you did have other girls to visit with who didn’t go away to the country.”
“They aren’t my best friend.”
“You won’t believe what we got. I’m so excited,” Ella said.
“What is it?”
“I’m not going to tell you. I want to show you. Come with me.”
Ella’s house is a big house with a wrap-around porch and a huge yard with acres of land.
I followed her to her huge backyard.
Standing there was a pony. “Isn’t he the cutest thing? We got him for keeps. I’m so excited. Do you want to ride him?”
I backed away. “No, it’s okay.”
“Come, pat him,” she said. “I feel like the character in Black Beauty or National Velvet.”
I liked horses in books. It was just the reality of one I wasn’t so excited about.
“Ella, please. I am happy for you, but I don’t want to touch it.”
“You’re so funny about animals.”
“What did you name her?”
“It’s a boy pony. He’s Cinnamon.”
“That’s a silly name.”
“My little sister named him.”
We went inside, and Ella showed me some of the new books she was reading this summer. She’d just finished The Five Little Peppers and How they Grew, and she was starting to read Little Women. I picked up her copy of The Secret Garden. That was the favorite for both of us and her copy had gorgeous illustrations. “This is my favorite page.” I turned to the page with the picture of the secret garden. The colorful flowers and the expression on Mary’s face in the picture were captivating. We sat together and paged through the book, admiring the pictures. We giggled and chatted for hours.
“We came back early because there was a case of polio in the country,” Ella said.
“I didn’t hear about it.”
“It was in the papers. My mom is terrified of polio.”
Ella showed me a brand new notebook and binder. “I’m all set for eighth grade,” she said.
“Yeah! I even bought all the uniforms. I love summer, but I love our Bais Yaakov.”
“Me, too,” I said.
Ella showed me her new uniform skirts and blouses. “Do you think Germany is going to attack us?” she asked.
“No, why do you ask that?”
“Well, my parents were whispering last night. I’m worried. I don’t want to miss school.”
“I’m sure everything will be fine,” I said, wishing I was right.
“Well, my father is talking about sending us to America and then joining us later. He has a distant cousin who will sponsor us.”
My stomach clenched. “No, Ella.”
“I don’t want to go. I want to stay here with you and go to our school, but my father is really worried. He thinks life may become unsafe here for Jews.”
“I hope you don’t go,” I whispered. It would be dreadful without Ella.
I gazed out the big picture window next to Ella’s bed. I saw her new pony grazing and I tried not to think of Ella leaving to another country. If her parents were that worried that they were willing to travel all the way across the ocean, then I should tell my parents.
“I’m going to France next week to visit my cousin.”
“Maybe it’s not a good time now to travel. Aren’t your parents worried to send you now?”
I shook my head.
“Let’s go sit outside,” Ella said. “The sun is less hot now.”
We sat down on lawn chairs in the back and took turns making up a story. That was one of our favorite games. Only today it was hard for me to concentrate on the story. I was thinking about Ella leaving and about me going to France.
Later when I was strolling home from Ella’s house, I spotted the white dove perched in our evergreen tree again. I watched as she lifted her wings and took off into the sky. I thought about what Zeidy had said about the Jewish people being compared to doves. She was free to fly anywhere. What if I had wings and I could fly to Sophie and then quickly fly back home?
That night I said to Mama, “Ella thinks it isn’t such a safe time for me to travel now.”
“Hashem will protect you. You’re heading to do a big mitzvah.”
I davened extra hard that night and asked Hashem to protect all of us and to let Ella’s family stay in Poland with us.
If only those prayers could have been answered…
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.