Tag: heartbreak

Book Review: Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly).

Lilac Girls

– Martha Hall Kelly.

This is a book I have been meaning to read for a while but it wasn’t easy to find. Finally, I read it and it was worth the wait. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is set in the time before, during, and after World War II. The story of this novel is based on a true account of Caroline Ferriday, a socialite in New York who helped the Polish women of Ravensbruck camp. The story of Lilac Girls focuses on three main characters – Kasia, Caroline, and Herta who come from different backgrounds and countries but their lives intersect. Caroline helps the medical experiment survivors from Ravensbruck by bringing them for treatment to America almost a decade after the war is over.

Caroline is an ex-actress who comes from a wealthy family and volunteers at the French Consulate in New York City before the war. Caroline and her family have a strong sense of their French roots and enjoy many traditions of their culture. It is also the reason Caroline works dedicatedly at the consulate. Kasia is an 18-year-old girl living happily with her family and friends in Lublin, Poland until Nazi Germany invades Poland on 1st September in 1939 and her life is turned upside down. Herta is studying medicine in Nazi Germany and dreams of being a surgeon but there are restrictions for women in the medical field under the Reich. She is ambitious and determined from the very beginning and has complete faith in Hitler’s vision for her country.

The story is pretty straightforward in terms of timelines and events. The novel is divided into three parts. The first part gives an insight into the background of the characters and this really helped me understand the motivations and personalities of these women. The second part was difficult to read because the main focus of this is the course of their lives during the war. It is not outwardly described in a gory or violent way but it is more about the emotional reactions which get to you. The third part of the story is Caroline, Kasia, and Herta’s life after the war ends.

The characters in the book are what make this novel unique. Caroline does everything in her power to help French children during the war. She does so at a personal cost at times and even when things turn hopeless she keeps doing what she does because she knows this is the least she can do to help. Kasia is a rebellious girl but she wants to help change the situation in Poland. She starts helping the Polish underground in Lublin with the help of her friend and her crush Pietrik. One day she is followed by a German officer after doing an assignment she begs Pietrik for and is arrested. Kasia’s mother and sister Zuzzana, Pietrik, and his sister Luiza who have come to collect the envelope from Kasia are all arrested along with her.

Ravensbruck is where Kasia ends up with her sister and mother, a labor camp in Germany for women. I didn’t know much about this camp and the medical experiments conducted there until I read this book. These women stick together, helping each other stay safe that too at a personal cost. It’s heartwarming to see them help each other this way in a situation where one wrong move meant your death. The experiments were inhumane and the way is written makes us understand the gravity of it. It is at the camp that Kasia’s mother, Halina, is taken under Herta’s wing as a nurse and where Halina dies. This is the only time Herta shows some emotion. Herta is not a fictional character and is based on a camp doctor in Ravensbruck. She believes in what she is doing and it seems like she doesn’t care but somewhere deep down she feels a little remorse for her actions. Most of the time though she is detached and cold focusing only on her medical research with no thought of the human cost.

Caroline has a personal connection to France during the war, a married actor she falls in love with named Paul who is also taken to a camp when France is invaded but survives. Kasia comes back with her sister to Lublin where their father still lives and has trouble adjusting to normal life. She finds Pietrik and he is having a hard time too but Kasia is trying to forget but her guilt about her mother makes her angrier and angrier. Pietrik and Kasia get married and have a daughter who is named Halina after her mother but Kasia doesn’t want her to be named Halina. She snaps at everyone about the tiniest things but slowly realizes she needs to let go. With Caroline’s insistence, Kasia goes to Germany to confront Herta who was released early from prison. Once she confronts Herta and finds out what happened to her mother at the camp that she is finally able to move on with her life and leave all the darkness behind.

Martha Hall Kelly has been able to give a lot of heart to the story through her characters. Kasia and her family are the fictional characters but the story revolves around them in a way and, they are instrumental in telling the story of those Polish women who suffered at Ravensbruck during the war and treated unjustly after the war. It is a beautiful and inspiring story yet it is so sad and heartbreaking.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Three Days of Storm (Short story)

Part 2 of 4

CHAPTER 1

She woke up to the smell of eggs like every day. She slept so early yesterday since Adam will be leaving in a few days she, Rose and Adam had been making plans of hanging out a lot more over. Watching movies, shopping, hiking they even went to play paintball. It was a good thing she took the weekend off, she could sleep in and afford to be lazy without having to worry about being late. The weather was so gloomy she didn’t feel like getting up at all, it might rain today heavily was a forecast. She took a quick hot shower and got dressed in a pair of shorts and a loose t-shirt. She brushed her curly hair and put them up, slipped her phone in the pocket and went downstairs. Nana kissed her on the cheek and set her breakfast. They both sat on the table in comfortable silence eating and reading the newspaper. They didn’t need to talk all the time they were perfectly fine sitting in silence. After living together for eight years they shared a good understanding. She loved her nana; she was April’s only family and she cherished her more than anything. She was helping nana with the plates when her phone rang loudly making her jump in shock.

She looked at the caller id. It was Adam, why was he calling her now? They usually hang out in the evening on weekends. “Hello.” He chirped, wow someone is in a good mood.

“Hi, what’s up?” She asked casually. There was a long pause at his end, she didn’t know why but she just had a bad feeling about this. What was wrong with her? Bad feeling? Really? She has totally lost it.

Finally he spoke. “What are you doing now? Can you come to my place for sometime but just hurry?” He said impatiently.

Ok, this was not bad. She gets to spend time with him since he will be leaving soon. “Yeah sure. I’ll be there in ten.” She said.

She will get to change her top and walk to his place, he lived close by. “Great, see you in few.” He said excitedly and hung up.

He had already hung up before she could say anything else. Nana looked at her curiously. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. It was Adam he asked me to come by.” She said with a sigh. “I will just go get changed.” She replied and nana nodded.

Here comes the million dollar question, what to wear? She had a closet full of clothes still she had no clue what to wear. It should be casual yet classy, she didn’t want Adam to ask why she arrived all dressed up. She picked out a baby pink off shoulder top and slipped it on quickly and a pair of black jeans. She brushed her hair and left it open, she was done. She said her goodbyes to nana and started walking towards his house, she reached within ten minutes, and the front door was closed. She knocked softly but no response. She could hear voices from the backyard; she went around the house and stopped dead on her tracks as the scenes unfolded before her.

Adam was kneeling on one knee holding a ring box in his hand, saying something that she couldn’t make out. Rose stood in front of him looking shocked. April was froze on the spot, didn’t move a muscle. She was so shocked that she didn’t know what to do, scream or run, she just wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole. This can’t be happening, it was only a dream she told herself, she shut her eyes for a few seconds and opened them again. Oh my God! It was not a dream it was real, she couldn’t believe she could still stand on her own feet, she felt her legs going weaker and weaker every second. Rose finally smiled at Adam and he slipped the ring on her finger and then they kissed. No, why was this happening? They couldn’t even stand each other most of the time, always argued and now they are kissing, he proposed to her. April couldn’t believe her eyes.

She felt tears rolling down her cheeks like streams. She was angry, jealous and hurt, so many emotions were running through her, she wanted to punch them, throw things then slump on the floor and cry till she got sick. She should be happy that her best friends in the world are engaged but happiness is the last thing she wanted about to feel. She took control of her body slowly and started taking small steps backwards, moving away from them and his parents who had such broad smiles on their faces. She turned around the corner from where she came in and ran towards her house as fast as she could. The tears hadn’t slowed since they first started flowing; her eyes were starting to sting. It thundered loudly and it began to rain.

She slowed her pace just a bit. She was not even sure if she was running in the right direction or not but she kept on moving. She wanted to run away from the grief that was threatening to take over her. The pain alone was getting harder to bear every passing second. She ran into something or someone she didn’t really understand but she didn’t fall she was steadied by two strong arms around me. Her vision was blurry and it was raining. She looked up to say sorry for running into them like that but it was none other than Kyle. Great, today was her lucky day, she shoved him as hard as she could and he stumbled backwards. She looked around and it was pouring hard and she was not exactly sure where she was. “Are you okay? Why are you crying?” Kyle asked softly taking a step towards her concern clear on his face.

That did it; she slumped on her knees in front of him, sobbing like a child. She wanted to stop crying and take control be strong but she couldn’t, she cried harder at her pathetic attempts to control herself. She felt a pull on her shoulders; Kyle had knelled beside her with his arm around her in a comforting way. She leaned her head on his shoulder; he was her only support and continued to sob. Adam and Rose were engaged; her best friend and the guy she has been in love with all these years are engaged. She could have felt better if it was someone else but her best friend was like rubbing salt on her wounds. Why Rose? Why not her? Was something wrong with her?  Did she simply keep people pushing away or held on to them to tightly? Was she not good enough for him? These thoughts were clouding her and she couldn’t think straight. The pain was crushing her like someone had stabbed her in the heart but somehow she was still alive. She had a million questions running through her mind, Kyle just held her to him quietly.

“Take me home please, take me home.”  She whispered to him in a pleading tone. He just nodded and helped her up without a word.

She was soaking wet, she hoped she didn’t get sick but who cared? She didn’t care about anything right now. She got into the car and they drove off. She wiped her tears roughly and sat looking outside controlling herself from having another breakdown. She had to be strong, she wanted to be. Nana always said to her that she was very brave she desperately wanted it to be true. She could get through this, she had to. She could see Kyle glancing at her every now and then from the corner of her eye but she pretended she was fine now. He walked her inside, Nana answered the door with a smile but it dropped as soon as she looked over her. She took a step forward but April ran past her straight to her room. She could hear nana asking Kyle about her please don’t tell her, she will be worried and she didn’t want her to be worried about her or be upset because of her.

Why her? Why did bad things always happen to her? She felt like she was cursed who ever got close to her left her. First her parents died leaving a hole in her heart and then Rose and Adam, the hole just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Nana came in and sat next to her by the window, she leaned her head on her shoulder, silent tears falling down her face, they sat like that for a while watching the rain hitting the window glass. She got up and slipped herself under covers, she had dried off and changed but she was still cold. Nana stroked her forehead lovingly before leaving the room and shutting off the light. Nana came back with a cup of hot chocolate and set on her table and left again. Please let today just be a dream she begged when she woke up in the morning everything would be the way it was today morning.

She knew it was not true; nothing was going to be the same again. Adam and she will never be together, Rose and her friendship will be different.  She believed that she could get over this after all she did finally accept that her parents were not coming back. She was only twelve that time now she was older; she had to be strong enough. She promised herself that she won’t cry over Adam anymore. It would be tough but she was going to be a good friend and try being happy for them. She clutched the sheets tighter around me and closed her eyes praying sleep would take over soon.

Lost

Lost

Lost in the void,

A place deep within,

Felt something was amiss.

Lost in the void,

The tunnel grew darker and melancholic.

Stuck without any light,

Wanted to stop or be stopped,

It was nothing but false hope.

The void grew bigger as did the darkness,

And with no way out,

The battle was lost.

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Only Once (Short story)

Only Once.

“Diane’s older son Chris, remember him? He is an engineer, just moved back here a month ago.” my mother said. I knew it was too much to expect her not trying to set me up.

I nodded uninterestedly. “Good for him,” I answered.

My mother sighed. I could feel the anger building up in her but she tried to be patient with me. “I think you should meet him. He is a decent fellow.”

I groaned, focused on my plate slowly losing interest in the food and this conversation while she continued talking. “It will be nice for you to go out once in a while. You haven’t been on a date in years approximately in three. Why do you never approve of the boys I choose! I only want you to be happy.”

The concerned tone of her voice as she finished her lecture made me cringe inwardly. It didn’t help with the irritation I was feeling. I know she wants the best for me but forcing me is not the way to go. “Mom I am happy.” she looked skeptical but I continued. “Really, I am. I have you and dad, I have great friends, a pretty good job where I make quite a lot of money if I may say so myself and a cute little place of my own. I have everything I want so why wouldn’t I be happy?” I asked putting a fork full of food in my mouth. Praying she will let this topic slide for now.

With no such luck she continued, “Aren’t you lonely? It’s nice having someone next to you through thick and thin.” she suddenly paused. Her voice was barely a whisper “You haven’t dated anyone since…Jayden.”

I stiffened. After all this time just hearing his name makes my heart beat faster; he still has such an effect on me, he always did and he knew it. It never really lessened. “I don’t know what happened between you two but it’s been three years. It’s time to move on, he is not going show up one day and whisk you away,” she said softly.

I closed my eyes. The pain of losing him was still fresh; it was always there. I simply hid it better or I learned to live with it. “Is it wrong to have hope?” I whispered more to myself than to mom but I know I sounded wishful but I couldn’t help it.

“No sweetie. It’s not wrong but you can’t spend the rest of your life hoping. You have to stop sometime.”

She is right. It’s nothing different than what I try to convince myself all the time. He is not going to come back. We belonged in different worlds. The world where we are meant to be doesn’t exist. We tried, it didn’t work. I said awful things to him I can’t take back and he didn’t choose me which he can’t change or won’t. I told him one day if things were different maybe we can find a way to be together. I won’t find someone like him again even if I tried; he was perfect for me in every way. I felt safe, understood and most importantly happiness whenever I was with him. Now it seems ironic!

I believed that but every day I believe a little less and a little less. I worry that I might completely stop believing in this, in him. Without that where do I stand? I know what I felt for him was once in a lifetime. I will fall in love again, someday but never like that. Not so completely and madly that I couldn’t think about anything but him; an all-consuming kind of love. Never again. It happens only once.