8 authors. 8 novels. All commemorating one event: the start of WWII 75 years ago.
Join the tour & giveaway here: http://buff.ly/1qQVcXU
As a part of the WWII 75th Anniversary blog tour and GIVEAWAY, each author is including a scene from one of their character’s perspectives during the war.
If you’ve read The Butterfly and the Violin, then you know Adele experienced the shock of Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. But since I’m currently working on edits for the second book in the series, A Sparrow in Terezin, I wanted to include a brand new scene for my readers here. Book #2 marks Czech-born Kája Makovský’s journey from the war-torn skies over London during The Blitz, to the Terezin (Theresienstadt in German) concentration camp north of Prague. Attached below is an exclusive scene that didn’t make it off the cutting-room floor — one of Kája’s experience during a mid-night bomb drill in London’s East End.
May 22, 1940
Air raid sirens wailed out, startling Kája so that she nearly dropped her bone china tea cup on the floor.
She’d tossed and turned in bed for what felt like hours and finally, unable to claim anything but a fitful sleep, had surrendered and stepped into the kitchen of her third floor flat to make a cup of chamomile tea. She’d scarcely poured water in the tea kettle before the sirens had cut into the night, echoing their shrill warning by rattling the glass of the front windows and jingling the china in the kitchen cabinets. Her thoughts were ripped from the usual worries of Prague, and her family, to the more immediate fear of what could be happening right outside her door.
Kája abandoned the cup on the counter and turned off the gas to the stovetop, then quickly doused the kitchen lamp. Her first instinct was to look outside, to see if people were fleeing to the safety of nearby shelters or, heaven help them, if she could see the tell-tale flames of sites that had already been bombed. She rushed to the front sitting room and parted the heavy drapes, peering into the expanse of darkness.
Fog had settled sometime in the night, laying a blanket of mist over the street. Kája squinted, trying to look through it. It proved eerily thick and impassable even to the eye, like a ghostly partner to the sirens. The latter continued to cry out, pulling her view to the stretch of sky overhead. With the blackout in the city, it was among the darkest of skies she’d ever seen.
Kája gripped the brocade drape material as if it were her sole lifeline, and stared up at the depths of the sky, praying aloud against seeing the movement of German planes. Her breaths shuddered in and out against the sirens’ song; the only sounds save for the beating of her heart as it slammed back and forth in her chest.
Once, she’d have thought herself almost brave. She and her sister had fled occupied Prague. It wasn’t many a Jew who could say they’d stared in the face of the Nazis and by God’s provision, had managed to successfully escape their grasp. But this? If her nails digging through the drapes and into her palm gave any indication to how brave she was not, Kája judged that air raid sirens in the middle of the night proved far more effective in revealing her weakness.
She chided herself for her pride now, having thought that the clockwork wail of sirens had grown somewhat routine for them all. It was anything but routine as the minutes ticked by now. The color of night was so black that she could scarcely see her hand in front of her face. What’s more, she was alone.
Alone and terrified as the sirens continued to cry.
A series of booms pounded the front door then and Kája yelled out, unable to stop herself from the momentary fright. She stared at the door for a second, trying to remember how to breathe.
Her hand had flown up to cover her heart and she patted the base of her throat, finally croaking out a meager, “Who is it?”
“It’s Mrs. Flint, dear.”
The building owner. Kája breathed a sigh of relief.
She rushed to the front door and unbolted it.
The sprightly Mrs. Flint was there, huddled in a paisley robe out in the hall, with her long hair braided and falling down over the front of her shoulder. She held a square Redbird lantern in one hand and what appeared to be a leather-bound Bible gripped tightly in the other. In the glow of the lantern, Kája could see that she’d pulled an old Pinwheel quilt around her shoulders.
“Are you quite alright, my dear? Mr. Flint and I are checking all the flats in the building, asking after everyone.”
“Yes, I’m fine.” Kája nodded, still trying to catch her breath. “But do you know what is happening? It is another drill?”
“We have reason to believe so. We’ve heard no reports of bombs falling or damage anywhere near here at least, so that is good. But it is the dead of night and we’re not accustomed to being roused from sleep unless it is of some importance. As a precaution, we’re asking all to please hurry to the shelters in the garden. I can walk with you if you’d like. The rest of the tenants are on their way down the stairs now.”
“Yes, of course.” Kája nodded agreement. “I’ll just be a moment please.”
“And mind you bring your mask, dear.”
Kája rushed into her bedroom on the tail of Mrs. Flint’s word of caution.
With mere seconds to decide what she’d take, she pulled her robe up over her shoulders and tucked her feet into a pair of soft-soled leather shoes. The cardboard box which held her gas mask was on the nightstand. She tore open the lid and grabbed it, along with the journal and pencil she always kept in the nightstand drawer. She then pulled the coverlet from the bed, rolling the thick blanket under her arm. The last thing she thought of was her mother’s string of pearls. She’d have no use for jewelry in a bomb shelter of course, but just in case the worst happened and the building was gone when she came back, Kája meant to take something of her family along with her.
She opened the bureau drawer and finding the pearls tucked in the back, slipped them in her pocket and fled the room. Mrs. Flint led them down the stairs with the glow of her lantern light outlining the aged wooden steps.
“How are the children?” Kája asked, trailing behind as they hurried to the bottom floor.
“They’re scared, they are. The little Klein boy was gripping his bear so tight I thought he’d pop the stuffing right out of it.”
“And Mrs. Klein? How is she?”
Mrs. Flint shook her head. “Setting her teeth on edge, the sirens are. She’s beside herself with worry.”
“Yes, of course she is.”
Kája hated to think of the young boy and his mother having to put up with more strain. They lived one floor below her and since Mr. Klein had been called into the RAF, it seemed they’d been following one struggle after another. And Kája had heard a rumor only that week that children may be sent out of the city. It was unfathomable to think of bombs falling on Britain while mothers had to wonder if their children would be under them somewhere outside of London.
She couldn’t imagine the strain it caused Mrs. Klein and so many others.
“Mrs. Klein has taken a job at a woolen mill by the Royal Arsenol. They had two drills this morning alone.”
“We had one today as well, on Fleet Street at The Daily Telegraph offices.” Kája noted, then breathed out sigh. “How terrible for her to have to go through this without her husband here.”
And how terrible for everyone really, she thought. London was under fire. It tempted one to see the fog and the black sky as an enemy along with the Germans; they seemed to be working together in their best attempt to completely terrify the British people.
They’d come to the bottom floor and rushed to the front door.
Once outside, Mrs. Flint positioned herself along the stepping-stones through her garden, shedding light on the path the tenants would take to the shelter doors.
It was odd, really, to be stepping so carefully around manicured flower beds and shrubs when German planes could drop a single bomb and destroy it all. But they walked with care, past the marigolds and poppies, and the blooming roses that showed off such glorious color in the daylight. They were all dark now, shrouded in mist and the shades of night until they looked like nothing more than weeds growing up out of the ground in varying tones of black and gray.
“Come quickly, this way.” Mr. Flint, the building owner with the white handlebar mustache and usually jolly demeanor, did not smile as he directed the tenants around the old rock wall that separated the garden from the rest of the property. “Mind your step there,” he directed, pointing out the edge of row of hedges and a bottom step that could be treacherous in the dark.
Their small party of tenants walked through the fog and the dew-covered grass, with steps quickened by the constant wail of the sirens echoing behind them. They came to the end of the garden and Kája saw the shelters for the first time. There was a line of three in succession, small shed-like out buildings made of thick, corrugated iron– probably the Anderson ones she’d heard about. Of what she could see in the lamp light Mr. Flint held, the one nearest her was sturdy looking, with a thick door and a roof mostly buried into the side of a mossy hill near a small grove of trees.
All rushed into the shelters, one by one, every adult, child, and teddy from the building.
Theirs was small, with bunks set against the back wall and a roof that appeared low. Kája wasn’t overly tall, but felt the need to bend to fit inside properly. Mr. Flint closed the door behind them and their small group was tucked in tight: the Flints, Mrs. Klein and her son, along with Kája and the Burgess family, a mother and father with their three young daughters from across the hall. It put the number packed into their shelter at ten, which made it quite uncomfortable to think of staying put for very long.
Mr. Flint lit a lantern hanging from the ceiling.
“There, there young ones,” Mr. Flint said, offering a cheerful smile as he settled in next to his wife. “It’s just a drill. But we’re smart to practice, aye? We shall want to be on our toes, just in case.”
Kája nodded along, feeling sick at her stomach with the thought of what could be happening outside. But if the rest of the adults could keep their wits about them, she was determined to do the same.
She saw the wide-eyed Mrs. Klein and her son across the way. He was holding tight to a bear in a blue sailor suit, just as Mrs. Flint has said, and had several comics pressed up to his chest in a protective hug. She tried to smile at them, but the lantern light was dim and she supposed they hadn’t seen it. Mrs. Klein said not a word, just stared ahead at the opposing wall as she kept a white-knuckled grasp on a gas mask.
They waited there like wide-eyed, frightened pigeons, for the last hours of the night.
The children had fallen asleep early. Remarkable they were in their show of courage; they’d hugged their toys and their parents, never once crying out as Kája would have expected them to. Mr. Flint appeared to have fallen asleep as well, as his breathing had evened to a slow snore. And as the rest of the shelter’s inhabitants nodded off in sleep, Kája slid her hand into her pocket and grasped her own lifeline.
She kept a tight hold to her mother’s pearls, gripping them as a most precious connection to her family through the night, even after the sirens stopped. She could only pray now, as she looked around at the heads of sleeping children inside the bomb shelter. She prayed that what happened in Prague would never happen here, that the Germans could never fly over the Channel and take over these city streets too.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…
She whispered the prayer out almost silently, hand running over the sheen of the smooth pearls, gripping them as if they were the last thing of beauty in her world.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me besides the still waters…
The sirens had only screamed out for part of the night; in the rest of it, their relentless memory echoed in her ears, competing with her spoken words. And as she prayed, from somewhere in the depths of her heart, a still small voice of instinct whispered: London’s darkest days could still lie ahead.
For a chance to win ALL EIGHT novels featured on our blog tour, please visit each blog, collect the answers to the questions, and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway on the BLOG TOUR PAGE. The contest opens September 1, 2014 at 6 am EST and closes September 6, 2014 at 11 pm PST. The winners will be announced on Monday, September 8, 2014.
To win the prize of ALL EIGHT books, you must collect ALL EIGHT answers. The winner must be prepared to send ALL EIGHT answers within 24 hrs of notification by email, or a new winner will be selected.
You can enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway once each day! The more often you visit, the more entries you receive! However, you only need to enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway once to be entered. But don’t forget…to win, you must have collected ALL EIGHT answers.
>>>>>> Blog Tour Question <<<<<<
What special family item does Kája take with her into the bomb shelter during the mid-night bombing drill?
Thanks for stopping by and participating in the WWII 75th Anniversary Blog tour! Best of luck with the giveaway and — happy reading. ; )