That Four-Letter Word: WORK

When I first started painting about three years ago, I just looked at the activity as a tool of stress release. Every afternoon I walked to the back bedroom and slopped some pigment on canvas and called it painting.

Painting, like writing, needs constant attention and practice to get better, so I reached out to my friend Marie who is an outstanding water color artist. At the time she lived in Florida and tried to tutor me over the computer. Learning this way was difficult; I wished I could have attended one of her classes, but I got a little better.

Last summer she moved back home to Racine. Marie out-lived most of her Florida friends, and she wanted to be near her children here in Racine. Since coming back north, Marie has continued to work with me to hone my painting skills.

What I’ve learned through this journey is any artistic talent needs to be honed. Finding and inspiring teacher is a gift and a curse. The teacher can pinpoint the things you need to work on and other things you are do well. The curse is this: if you listen to your teacher and become aware of the proper techniques to use, every time you sit down to do something you started as fun becomes work. Yup, that nasty four-letter word. . . WORK.

I’m not saying work is bad, I’m just saying the activity would never be the same. I felt the same when I took voice lessons and writing classes. I always need a challenge and staying in a stagnant place is harder than striving for better results. So, WORK shows up. Just remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You be the judge.

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 19

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – Summer, 1940—Mrs. Schneider welcomed Donna to stay in Josie’s bedroom, until Josie came home for the summer. By that time, Donna saved enough money to afford an apartment of her own. She moved into a small, affordable flat downtown within walking distance from her office.

By now Rosalie had recovered from Angelina’s birth, and baby Angelina became her mother’s most precious little girl. Angelo worked overtime on Saturdays, so the girls could visit without male intervention. Autolite got a government contract to make spark plugs for military boats which required the line to be redesigned and Angelo had been promoted to “Apprentice Mechanic” at the plant. Rosalie missed her usual leisurely Saturday morning breakfast with Angelo, but today she happily prepared the house for a visit with Donna and Josie.

Rosalie greeted them with a broad smile. “I’m so glad you both are here. Come in!” She hugged them as they entered the cozy little home. “I made some tea sandwiches and cinnamon rolls for us. Let’s go into the kitchen.”

Donna and Josie gave Rosalie the flowers the brought and followed Rosalie into her bright delightful kitchen. The white walls made the small kitchen appear large. The tiled black and white floor, the trend of the time, gave the room a diner-like aura. White painted cupboards lined two of the four walls, and a new white Formica counter-top edged in chrome trim matched the chrome lighting fixture which dangled from the ceiling. Rosie painted the table and chairs white to match the cupboards. Images of bright red geraniums appeared in the wallpaper, which brought some warmth into the otherwise sterile setting.

The table top was covered with a crisp white and red checked tablecloth, and three heavy restaurant mugs sat waiting to be filled. A dessert plate and a linen napkin sat beside the cup. In the center of the table Rosie arranged the sandwiches in an attractive configuration with colorful fruit pieces surrounding them.

“Jeez, Rosie, your kitchen looks like one pictured in ‘Better Homes and Garden’s magazine.” Donna said. “And I can’t wait to bite into one of those luscious rolls! You’ve become a real Suzy Homemaker, sweetie.”

Josie concurred. “You and Angelo really made a nice cozy home.”

Rosalie beamed. “Thanks. I’m just so glad to have you both over. It seems like eons since we’ve been together. Since the baby, I don’t get out much.” Rosalie looked down. She didn’t want to talk about the birth or her lack of nurturing behavior she felt toward the baby after she got home from the hospital.

“Are you back to normal now?” Josie asked.

“The birth was hard and my recovery took about two months, but I’m okay now. When I first got home, I felt pretty sick, but now it is all worth it. Gina is my precious little girl. I can’t wait to show you how she’s grown!”

The girls relaxed and spent the afternoon catching up on their lives until a tiny cry came  from the next room. Rosalie jumped up to attend to her daughter while Donna and Josie waited for her to return. The new mother came back in a couple of minutes with a rosy cheeked, chubby little baby girl dressed from head to toe in pink.

“Well, no doubt she’s your little Italian girl! Look at those big brown eyes and curly red hair! Oh, Rosalie, she’s the cutest thing!” Donna said. “When Angelo made her, he definitely followed the pattern in front of him.”

“Donna!” Josie blushed. “Sometimes the things you say!”

Rosie giggled, “You can’t deny she’s right.”

Josie smiled. Seeing Rosalie with a baby on her hip seemed unreal.  After all a year ago they just graduated from high school. But when Rosalie lifted her blouse to nurse the baby, Josie and Donna felt a little uncomfortable; Rosalie’s reality was a little too much for both of them.

 

Chapter 20

Paris, France-August—The summer of 1940 changed Paris, even though the Nazis wanted the world to believe French citizens went about their lives in the same way they did before the occupation. They allowed many cultural aspects go on without interference. In reality, life in Paris existed with a threatening undercurrent.

The occupation spoiled Paris for Marta. The city no longer appeared as a new toy she wanted to unwrap and explore. Her adventure ceased. Fear took hold.

As Emma predicted, the Nazis required the French Jewish citizens to wear yellow stars on their clothing; they also sectioned off a part of the city for them to live in. Marta hoped Paris would be different from the other cities across Europe, but as time went on, Paris followed the rest of Europe under German rule.  Defenseless people took beatings from Nazi thugs in the streets. Their barbarian behavior made others flee because if they came to the aid of the Jewish man, they received the wrath of the attackers too.

Emma cautioned Marta to be alert at all times. “Marta, you must never be alone. Always walk to the trolley with other people. If you sense you are being followed, duck into a store or cafe where other people are gathered. Never be alone with any Nazi even though you might have gone to school with them. They might consider you a traitor.”

Marta nodded. “I want to gag when they come into the Louvre, especially when giggling French girls are with them. I suppose the girls think they will be treated better by befriending our captors.”

Emma nodded. “Do not worry about such girls. They will suffer in the long run.”

*****

One warm afternoon Marta left the Louvre after her shift and walked to the plaza where she always met her friend Brigetta to ride the trolley home. Today Brigetta seemed to be late because Marta did not find her in the groups which usually gathered there.

Hairs on the back of Marta’s neck stood up when she sensed a SS officer was watching her like a menacing hawk. A chill washed over her when she realized he now walked in her direction. Emma’s words rang in her head as she looked around to seek refuge from this possible stalker. She quickened her gait toward the trolley stop. Where is Brigetta? Her heart hammered as the man in black got closer. The click of his heavy black boots on the stone plaza quickened. Marta ran. Her Nazi pursuer picked up his pace too. Then he yelled, “Marta, please Stop!”

She gasped when she realized the voice belonged to Franz Reinhart.

Marta squirmed like a trapped mouse. She saw no escape. She decided to be pleasant and then excuse herself after a few cordial words.

Franz came up behind her. “Marta! It is you!”

“Franz! What a surprise!” She smiled sweetly.

He smiled back. “When we marched into Paris, I hoped I would meet you again.”

“Really? Why? Leisel wrote and said you are now a married man.”

He looked sheepish. “Well, yes. But we still can be friends. Right?”

She said nothing and looked at her feet.

He shifted his weight from foot to foot like an awkward secondary student. “We did not leave things on a good note before you left the Fatherland.”

“You are right. We did not.” She turned to walk away from him.

He rushed to stay by her side. “I would like to make up for our argument. Can I buy you a glass of wine?”

“You need not be sorry, Franz. I remember you did nothing wrong. I’ll take the blame, but I must go.” She continued toward the trolley stop.

“Please, frauline. I insist.” He grabbed her elbow with a pinching grip and steered her into the nearest tavern called the Le Cheau. He pushed her onto a stool at the bar and barked, “Bitte sitzen.”

She sat on his order.

He banged on the bar to demand service. He ordered a beer for himself and a glass of Merlot for her. When the drinks came, Franz took a long swig of his beer and wiped the foam on his face with the back of his hand. “Not exactly as good as home, but it will do.”

Marta didn’t attempt to drink the wine.

His smile turned to a scowl. “What? Why will you not drink with me? Now that you are in Paris, are you too superior to drink with me?” His voice boomed with a threatening tone.

“Franz, please.” She whispered. “I do not drink alcohol.”

He turned to the other patrons in the bar. “Do you believe a beautiful girl in Paris does not drink wine? The only answer must be she must not be a true French woman, ja?” He laughed.

The patrons seemed to shrink into their booths, and they kept their heads down staring into their drinks.

Marta jumped off the stool. “I am expected at home, Franz. I need to go.”

He caught her arm and twisted her back on the stool and screamed, “Bitte sitzen!”

Sensing trouble, the other patrons got up and left. The bartender scurried into the back room.

“Do you understand what I suffered after you left Berlin?” He yelled.

“Yes. You went on with your life and married Leisel.” She said flatly. “I would think you would be very happy.” She faked a smile.

Franz rose, went to the door, and turned the lock. The bartender ran out the back door slamming the door.

Marta gulped. She was alone to fend for herself.  She froze.  Franz snickered. “It seems your superior French countrymen realize I want to be with you alone, mademoiselle.”

Marta attempted to leave, but Franz dragged her back to a bar stool. He slammed the glass of wine down on the bar. “I will teach you to love wine.” He snarled before he pulled her head back by her hair and poured the wine over her face. “I said we will drink together.”

She sputtered as the wine went up her nose. “Franz, stop!”

“Stop! I am just getting started!” He poured another glass of wine from a bottle sitting on the bar. He slammed the full glass down in front of her and ordered. “Trinken!”

Her hand shook as she picked up the glass and sipped the bitter vintage.

“Much better.” He sneered as he gulped down another beer.

Trinken!” He ordered again. Obediently, she gulped down the wine. Her cheeks warmed and turned red before the wine sent a numbing sensation throughout her body.

“You lied to me, mademoiselle. You do like wine. The blush shows in your pretty traitor face.” He poured another glass. “Trinken!”

Marta wanted his assault to stop. She tried conversation. “So Franz, tell me how you like married life.”

He growled. “I do not want to talk about Leisel.”

“Why?”

“Because she is not the girl I wanted. The good things about her are her flawless beauty, and she’s a lioness in bed. I married her because her father is rich and a senior officer.” He gulped down another glass of beer. “Her old man helped me get good assignments and rise in the ranks.” He pulled at his collar. “I am already a full lieutenant!” His speech started to slur his words.

He slithered close to her. He turned her on the stool to face him then pulled her onto her feet. His arms engulfed her, and he pulled her into his body. The scent of stale beer lingered in his breath as he kissed her mouth with force. His forceful tongue lunged into her mouth. She clenched her jaws shut and struggled to push him away. “Marta. Do not play with me. Clearly, you want me. Do not fight me.”

“What?” Her voice quavered.

“You know you want me.”

“I know nothing of the sort. Let me go, Franz.”

“Not before I get what I want!” He tore at her blouse, ripping the buttons away, exposing her bra. His face turned to stone.

Marta pulled her blouse tightly across her body and attempted to reach the door.

The strong man screamed. “Oh no. You will not deny me!” He wrenched her arm and tore her blouse away. He unlatched her bra and her breasts spilled out. “You will not get away, my little bird.”

Marta stood shivering, too frightened to move. He paced around her like a threatening panther before he grabbed her breast and squeezed with a crushing grasp. He bent down and bit her nipples.

She cried, “Franz, stop! No! You are hurting me!”

He dismissed her pleas. He pressed himself closer His arousal evident.  She squirmed and beat his chest.

He taunted. “You have become a weak little bird, mademoiselle.”

Marta snarled. “Stop! I do not want you! You are disgusting and crude.”

Nein! You will surrender to me!” He pulled out his pistol and pointed the gun at her. “Nehmen sie rock aus!” He ordered her to take off her skirt.

She didn’t move. He moved toward her and put the gun to her head. “Nehmen sie rock aus!”

She stared at him with hate and spat in his face. “I would rather die.”

He backhanded her with the pistol. She reeled backward and crashed into a chair before falling to the ground.

She screamed.

He picked her up with one hand, reached around her back, and unbuttoned the closure of her skirt. Now she stood only in her panties, garter belt, and stockings.

His nose flared as he pawed at her underwear to fully expose her. He growled, “I wanted this since my fourteenth birthday. You shamed me when you rejected my marriage proposal last summer. But before you die, you will experience a real man!” He slammed her face down over one of the tables.

The impact with the table bruised her cheek. Her attacker held her head down with a powerful grip and laid his two hundred pounds of muscle on top of her. Marta shuddered when his belt buckle hit the tiled floor with a clunk. His sweating legs pushed up against her. He separated the cheeks of her buttocks. She screamed as a piercing pain split her in half. His hand smothered her cries as he growled, “Halt den Mund!” She obeyed to keep quiet while she swallowed the powerful pain.  He thrust himself in and out of her virginal body until she collapsed. His semen ran down her legs, leaving a warm sticky mess behind. As soon as he withdrew himself, he spun her around and forced her to look at him. Tears streamed down her face.

“Oh, poor little Marta.” He hit her again. “Am I not good enough for you?” Anger burned in his eyes.

Marta trembled and remained silent. He crushed her onto the table and attacked her again; this time he faced her. After he ejaculated the second time, he collapsed in a chair and closed his eyes. Marta realized this might be the only chance to escape.  She dragged her violated body into the backroom. She stumbled into a shelf of bottles, and the crash of glass woke him. He rushed toward the sound and caught her just before she got to the door. He grabbed her and forced her back into the bar. He had once again regained an erection. He threw her down onto the cold tiled floor and dropped on top of her. He attacked her even more violently than before; Her skin tore as his animal groans made her choke on her vomit.

Marta slipped into unconsciousness. Franz removed himself from her body, stood, and sneered at her. “Never again will you be superior to me! You bitch! No one humiliates Franz Reinhart.” He spat. “You can thank me, frauline. At least you experienced a real man before you die!”

The last thing Marta remembered was the sound of the small bell above the front door tinkling as he left.

*****

When she regained consciousness, the darkness shrouded the bar. Marta struggled to get to her feet, but her broken body didn’t cooperate with her wishes. She lapsed into unconsciousness again. The street lights lit the front of the bar when she woke again. Her head throbbed. A sharp pain pierced her chest when she took a breath. She tasted her own blood from a gash on her lower lip. She couldn’t open her right eye. She crawled to retrieve her torn, dirty clothing. Getting dressed took over an hour. She used a bar towel to wrap her head and to hide her battered face. She limped to the trolley stop, willing herself not to pass out before boarding the vehicle.

She exited the trolley at her usual stop and stumbled in the direction of her flat. She opened the door and collapsed on the stairs. She broke down and sobbed. She cried in a weak voice, “Emma. Emma. Please help me!”

Emma poked her head out of their apartment to find a woman lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. “Oh my god!” She rushed down not wanting to believe the woman could be Marta. “Marta! My darling! Whatever happened?”

Marta gazed at Emma with pleading eyes. She wept from the bottom of her soul sounding much like a dying animal.

Marta leaned heavily on Emma to travel up the stairs. She removed the towel from around her head and gasped when she revealed Marta’s battered face.

Anger rose in Emma’s chest.  “Who did this to you?”

Marta eyes went blank. She trembled unable to speak.

Emma laid Marta in their bed and stripped off her tattered clothes. Her bruises came alive throughout her entire body.  Emma cried as she cleansed Marta’s wounds. She redressed Marta in a soft cotton nightgown and covered her with a warm blanket. “I will be here for you, my darling. Do not worry. No one will ever touch you again.” Emma never told Marta she bought a gun and kept it in the night table beside her bed.

Marta’s sobs turned to whimpers like a puppy on his first night away from his litter mates. She fell asleep and Emma’s heart broke as tears rolled down her cheeks imaging what Marta had endured. “I love you, Marta. You are safe.” Emma whispered.

After several hours of vigilance beside Marta’s bed, Emma slipped into the kitchen. She made a cup of tea and tried to quell the rage overtaking her. She had toyed with the idea of volunteering for the French Resistance movement for a long time, and Marta’s attack made her decision clear. She would serve the resistance in any capacity.

 

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