The German Girl

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa Read Free Book Online

Book: The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa Read Free Book Online
Authors: Armando Lucas Correa
as I can so I can find out what’s going on. I don’t even comb my hair.
    In the kitchen, Mom is cradling her coffee cup. She drinks slowly, smiles, and her brown eyes light up. She’s wearing a lilac blouse, dark-blue pants, and shoes she calls “ballerina slippers.” She comes over and kisses me, and I don’t know why, but when I feel her near me, I close my eyes.
    I begin to eat breakfast quickly.
    “Take it easy, Anna . . .”
    But I want to finish as fast as possible. I want to find out who those people in the photos are, because I think we’re very close to discovering Dad’s family. The story of a ship that maybe sank in midocean.
    As we leave the apartment, I see Mom turn back briefly. She locks the door and stands there for a moment as if she’s changed her mind.
    When we get outside, she walks down the six front steps that have separated her from a world she has forgotten without holding on to the iron banister. When we reach the sidewalk, she takes me by the hand and makes me speed up. She seems like she wants to gulp down as much air as possible, even if it’s a bit cold, and feel the spring sunshine on her face. She smiles at the people we meet on the way. She seems free.
    Downtown at the photo lab in Chelsea, I have to help her open the heavy glass double doors. The man behind the counter, who is expecting us, puts on a pair of white gloves, spreads the rolls of negatives on a light box, and starts to examine them one by one through a magnifying glass.
    We have received a treasure from Havana. I am the detective in a mystery that is about to be revealed. The images we see are reversed: black becomes white; white, black. Our phantoms are about to come alive beneath powerful lamps and chemicals.
    We pause at one image in particular that is marked with a white cross. In the corner, there is a blurred inscription in German, whichMom translates for us: “Taken by Leo on 13 May 1939.” There’s a girl who looks a lot like me staring through the window of what the gray-haired man thinks could be a ship’s cabin.
    I think Mom is a bit worried when she sees me so excited by the negatives. She thinks I’m hoping they’ll provide too many answers and will be disappointed. Now we’ll have to figure out where they come from, which of Dad’s relatives appear in the photos, and what became of them. We know at least that one of them went to Cuba. What about the others?
    Dad was born at the end of 1959, but these negatives are over seventy years old, so we’re talking about the time my great-grandparents arrived in Havana. It’s possible my grandfather might also be among them, as a baby. Mom thinks they are photos from Europe and the sea crossing, when they were escaping the fast-approaching war.
    “Your dad was a man of few words,” she says again.
    In the taxi back home, she takes me by the hand so that I’ll give her my full attention. I know there’s another piece of news she wants to pass on, something she’s kept to herself all these years. She still thinks I’m too young to understand what happened to my family. I’m strong, Mom. You can tell me anything. I don’t like secrets. And it seems to me this family is full of them.
    It would have been easier if she’d just told me how I lost my father before I entered kindergarten at Fieldston. But Mom always insisted on saying the same thing: “Your father left one day and didn’t come back.” That was all.
    “I think it’s time you knew something. On your father’s side, you’re German as well,” she says with a slight smile, as if apologizing.
    I don’t respond. I don’t react.
    When the taxi turns onto the West Side Highway, I open the window. The cold breeze from the Hudson River and the noise of the traffic prevent Mom from continuing. I can’t stop thinking about this latest piece of news.
    By the time we get home, my cheeks are red and freezing. We bump into Mr. Levin with Tramp; after their walk, they often rest on the

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