Free at Last


Why should I be unhappy?  Every parcel of my being is in full bloom. Can’t you feel the warmth of the sunlight pouring its rays through the windows? Come on, Naomi, won’t you please smile? We should be celebrating!”

Naomi gazed up at the small, barred window, longing to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays as they lit the bars and the grime that was caked on the windows, before kissing her pale cheeks. Though her body burned with fever, she couldn’t stop shivering as chills enveloped her. “Here Naomi, let me raise you up just a bit, so I can comb the tangles out of your hair. It wouldn’t do for one of our liberators to come in and see how dirty and unkempt we are!”

Ingrid gently lifted Naomi’s feverish head, while sliding her left hand beneath it, so that Naomi’s head rested in the palm of Ingrid’s hand. Though she laughed and joked garishly, Ingrid handled her friend with utmost care, brushing her hair with soft strokes, from the bottom to the top of Naomi’s head.

 “Ingrid,” Naomi sobbed in distress, as a sharp pain ripped through her abdomen, “please hurry. I have to go!” With the gentle ease of a well-trained nurse, Ingrid quickly slid the wooden container that was used as a bedpan, under Naomi’s skeletal hips.

Like every other woman in this God-forsaken camp, Ingrid and Naomi had lost the soft curves that women normally have. Instead, their skin was like a thin flesh-colored layer of cling-wrap, pulled tautly around their bones. The muscles that were supposed to assist the skin in covering their bones, were flaccid from malnutrition. Ingrid’s efforts to fix their hair were futile, for malnourishment had done its work on every woman in the death camp, causing all of them to lose large clumps of hair, but really, that was the least of their worries.

It hadn’t taken any of them long to realize that those who were sent to the showers never returned. They also noted that every time a group of people was taken to the showers, the awful stench of burning corpses filled the air. Therefore, from the time they had first arrived at Bergen-Belsen, Ingrid had used every bit of cunning she had to help Naomi and herself avoid those dreaded showers. It hadn’t been easy either, but she had done what was necessary to help her best friend and herself to hold on for just a little longer, and now, finally, the day they had all longed for was here.

After carefully combing Naomi’s fine thin hair, Ingrid carefully pinned the beautiful red freedom rose she’d found outside the Gestapo’s barracks, onto Naomi’s baggy striped prison shirt. “There, you look like a beautiful Freedom’s Rose, Naomi. I won’t stand a chance when those American soldiers see you.” Naomi smiled at her friend. Typhoid and the torturous life in the prison camp had run its course, as Naomi exhaled her final breath, free at last.

© 2014
Cheryl A. Showers

This story was written in response to the Write on Edge challenge. The rules for this challenge are below:

        • 500 word limit, all genres of creative writing are welcome (I wrote 500)
        • linky is open until Thursday, June 12, at 11:55pm Pacific
        • Use the quote as an opening/closing line, draw inspiration from a single word within it, or choose the photo instead. (I used the quote in the first line)
        • Use the photo, or stick with the quote.
        • Use both if you are so inclined!

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