California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch
2015 Short, Short Story Writing Contest
Second Place Winner
by Rosi Hollinbeck
Rebekah heard Mees and Jouke talking softly in the room below. When she heard Nazi, a chill gripped her. She couldn’t understand much Dutch, but she knew that word. She slid to the floor, her back against the wall, and waited. It wasn’t long until Mees came.
“Jouke heard German troops are moving this way.”
Rebekah’s eyes stung. She couldn’t stop trembling. Mees sat clumsily on the floor, slipping her arms around Rebekah.
“Shhh. We’re prepared. We’ll keep you safe. You must stay in your little room. Take everything. Lock the wall in place unless we tap the code.”
Jouke had built the tiny room behind the attic wall and lined it with fresh-cut cedar boughs to block her scent if Nazis brought dogs. There was room for her little mattress and sewing things. A vent let in little light. Still, in daytime, Rebekah could see enough to sew, her favorite pastime. Mees had given her a bag of fabric scraps to make doll clothes and such.
Rebekah had come by train to the Netherlands to stay with her mother’s oldest friend. Only nine, she was frightened to leave her family near Hamburg, but they promised to send for her when it was safe.
Mees’s baby would come soon. Would they think it too dangerous to keep Rebekah then?
Settling against Mees, Rebekah put her hand on Mees’s tummy. She felt a fluttering, as if a small bird were trying to get out. She looked at Mees, who smiled.
“It won’t be long. This baby should come by Christmas.”
“Perhaps during Hanukkah,” Rebekah said.
“Tell me about Hanukkah,” Mees said.
“Long ago being Jewish was against the law.”
“Like now in Germany,” Mees said.
“Enemies built idols and even sacrificed pigs in our Temple. When the Jews won the temple back, they cleaned it and made it fit for worship again. There was only enough consecrated oil to light the menorah for one day, but it lasted eight. We celebrate that miracle. What does Christmas celebrate?”
Mees smiled. “God sent his son, Jesus, to live among humans and show us how to be more loving toward one another. Three wise kings traveled a long distance on camels to bring special gifts. They followed a bright star to find the baby Jesus who was born in a stable. His birth is the miracle of Christmas.”
Rebekah could see a picture of this in her mind. She would make a Christmas gift for the baby! After Mees left, she looked through scraps of cloth. All were dark, rich colors. Nothing bright. But she would find a way.
Each day, Rebekah stayed in her secret place. Sometimes she heard marching or shouting in the streets. And gunfire! Once she heard tromping feet and sniffing and claws clicking on the wood floor outside her room. She froze and held her breath. Finally they went away.
Mees came soon after and told her the Nazis had come and gone. She was safe! It took some time for her hands to stop trembling. She had to pull and re-do several stitches.
Mees and Jouke’s baby came mid-December. He was sweet and hardly cried. Each day, Mees brought little Pieter to spend time with Rebekah. She loved that time but was anxious to get back to her sewing.
Piece after piece she cut from dark scraps, shaping them to form a picture. Her flashing needle pulled everything together—blue and deep red and green for the robes of the kings, brown for the camels and manger. As the end of December neared, Rebekah worked hard on Pieter’s gift. There was only one problem. She had no yellow to make the bright star. She knew that star symbolized the miracle to Christians, and she wanted to get it right.
Rebekah went through everything she had. Then she found it—the perfect piece. She carefully pulled threads from the hated six-pointed star ordered by Nazis sewn to the front of her coat. Now it would symbolize good and bring happiness to Pieter, Mees and Jouke.
The first day of Hanukkah, Rebekah found a small gift by the wall opening in the morning. The second day of Hanukkah was also Christmas day. Mees pulled the curtains closed. Jouke brought Rebekah down. A decorated tree stood in the corner beside Pieter’s cradle. Rebekah shook out the little quilt she had made and laid it over Pieter.
“It’s perfect, Rebekah!” Mees hugged her close. “The star is most perfect of all.”