The House Guest

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“Elsa, stand up.” Elsa did as her mother told her. The floorboards creaked beneath her brown shoes. Her mother smiled at the two guests. It was a woman and a boy that looked to be about Elsa’s age.

“Elsa, this is Max, his mother and him live next door to us. Can you say hello?” Elsa stared at the boy with the funny hair. He had such short bangs. And his eyes were so big! Elsa would have laughed if she had not found him so strange looking.

“Hello, I am Elsa.” The boy was looking up at his mother now.

The woman said, “You two go and play now.” Elsa gave her mother a look. She did not want to be left with this funny looking boy.

ghost

“We will be in the kitchen,” Elsa’s mother said. The two adults walked off and the sounds of their heels tapping on the wood flooring grew distant. Elsa squinted her eyes at the boy.

“How old are you?” Elsa was nine and tall for her age. She liked to believe that she was smart for her age too. She thought this boy looked like a dumb baby.

“I turn ten next month.” Elsa stood up straight to show her full height but the boy was not paying any attention to her. He was looking around the house. The house was big and Elsa didn’t like it. Elsa and her family had just moved in and all the furniture still had white sheets over them like ghosts. Elsa was sure the house was full of ghosts. She had heard noises above her in the attic at night.

“What are you looking for?” Elsa asked. The boy turned around and looked at Elsa. He had been looking up the stairwell. He shrugged. Elsa thought he was a strange boy.

“Follow me, “she said, “Let’s go outside.” The children went to the backyard and Elsa picked up her ball. “Want to play?”

The boy nodded, “Kick it to me! Run farther back! Whoever misses the ball loses!”

The two children began their game and soon Elsa thought she might like this boy after all. He may have been tiny but he could kick the ball almost or just as hard as she. Soon the two were racing each other and then playing hide and seek. They played several rounds and then it was Elsa’s turn to seek. She closed her eyes and counted against the oak tree. It was thick and there was even a swing that hung down from the branch.

“Okay! Ready or not! Here I come!” Elsa ran around the tree and took off down the field. “I’m going to find you!” She laughed with excitement and looked all through the garden. The boy was not there. She ran to the other side of the yard and searched through the bushes. She panted for breath and paused to look around. He had to be somewhere. He would not just walk off, would he? Before it had been so easy to find him. Elsa walked back towards the house and found him sitting in the grass. He was playing with her toy train.

“Hey!” Elsa said. She was annoyed. “It is your turn to hide!” The boy looked up and shrugged.

He said, “I was bored with that game.” Elsa crossed her arms.

“Well, then you could have told me, silly boy. I was looking for you! And that’s my train.” The boy held it out to Elsa. He had the same look on his face he had when she had first met him. The playful boy was gone and now there was the face of a worried old man. Elsa told him this. She told him that he looked like a worried old man. She sat down in front of him and smoothed out her skirt.

“Well? What’s the matter?” The boy turned to glance back at the house and Elsa did too. “Max?”

“Haven’t you heard what the others have said?”

“Who?”

“The other children in town.”

Elsa twirled her curl around her finger. She was still sweating through her sweater and above her lip. She had not lived there long enough to meet the other children. She had only met Max. She would not start school for another two weeks. With a furrowed brow, Elsa lowered her head and then shook it in confusion.

“No, I haven’t. I just moved here. I’m new, remember?” Max put the toy train down and leaned closer to Elsa. Elsa inclined her head.

“This house is haunted.” Elsa bit her lip. She felt chills prickle her flesh. Elsa remembered the noises she heard in the night.

“You don’t know that!” Elsa was becoming defensive. She was not sure why. Max nodded many times.

“That’s what they say!” Elsa rolled her eyes at the boy.

“Well I don’t believe it!” The two sat in silence.

“That’s why the last family moved out.” Max said. This time Elsa laughed. She looked at the boy. She was skeptical. Now the boy was just trying to scare her.

“I don’t believe one word that comes out of your lying mouth!” Elsa said as she stood up. She looked down her nose at the boy. “This house is not even that old! You do not know anything.” It did not seem that the boy was becoming angry. He looked as if he scared himself. He was not standing either as if he had decided not to go back inside the house. Elsa found herself insulted. “You are just a scaredy-cat! Do you know that? Fine, stay out here then! I will have your mother come get you.” The boy looked back to the house but then, stood. He looked defiant. He claimed in a loud voice that he was not scared but he stayed put. Elsa laughed at the silly boy. Perhaps, he was a dumb baby after all.

Elsa’s mother tucked her in that night. She tugged on her braid as her mother read her a bedtime story. It was a chapter book of children’s stories and it was Elsa’s favorite book. She listened to her mother’s voice. It usually calmed her but that night; she wished her mother would not leave her.

“Will you read another?” Her mother shut the book as a response. “Please, mama?” She smiled at her daughter as she laid the book on the dresser.

“It is past your bedtime. I have read you three stories already, Elsa. That is enough for tonight.” Elsa felt her belly tighten.

“Wait, mama, will you sit at the end of my bed until I fall asleep?” Elsa’s mother raised her brow. Elsa never asked her mother to do this.

“You’re scared? My Elsa scared? Never!” Elsa nodded forgetting the shame of admitting her fear. Her mother sighed. She sat down and Elsa smiled with relief. Her body relaxed and she sunk beneath her covers.

“What are you afraid of?” Her mother said. She rubbed her daughter’s leg. “There is nothing to be afraid of here. You are just not used to our new house yet.” Elsa closed her eyes. She did not want to tell her mother what the boy had said. She was afraid to say it out loud. She just needed to fall asleep as quickly as she could.

“Don’t go until I fall asleep, okay?”

“I will stay right here. Now go to sleep.” Her mother said.

In the morning, Elsa went down the stairs and to the kitchen for breakfast. Her parents were sitting at the table reading the newspaper. The kitchen smelled like coffee and eggs.

“Orange juice, Elsa?” Elsa nodded and her mother poured her a glass. “There are eggs on the stove. Make yourself a plate.” Elsa did as she said and then joined them at the table. Her father made grunting sounds whenever he read the paper and Elsa always giggled at that. Elsa’s father winked at her and she smiled at him.

“Did you sleep well, Elsa?” Her father asked. He was a tall man with gold rimmed glasses.

“Yes, papa.” Her father folded his paper and left it in his lap.

“Did you? Well that’s good. Your mother told me that you gave her trouble last night. She had to sit with you.” Elsa gave her mother a look and her mother reached out and patted Elsa’s hand.

“Yes, I asked her to do that,” Elsa decided it was safe to say it now in the daylight with both her parents nearby, “But the boy next door told me that this house is haunted.”

Her father laughed and her mother furrowed her brow.

“He did? Why would he say such a thing?” Her mother said.

“Because he’s a boy!” Elsa’s father said, “He gets a kick out of filling your head with nonsense like that! He wanted to scare you and look, he has succeeded.”

“I wasn’t scared! Er-I’m not now! I didn’t even, really believe him anyway…” Elsa’s father laughed again and went back to his paper. Her mother crossed her arms.

“I don’t like that. I don’t like that one bit…that he would tell you something like that. I don’t think I want him coming over here again.” Her father shook his head.

“You know children like to mess around…He meant nothing by it. They all make things up like that. It’s fine.”

“Don’t listen to that boy! You have no reason to be afraid. This house is fine.” Elsa’s mother said. Elsa finished her breakfast.

She was playing with her train in the hallway. Her mother was upstairs working in her office and her father had left for work after breakfast. The house was very quiet. The wheels of her train squeaked against the flooring. When she grew bored of the train, she read and after that, she played with her dolls. Elsa was restless. She was even beginning to miss school. She took her doll with her outside and went to the big oak tree. She sat the doll against the tree and pulled herself up on to the swing. She kicked her legs until she was up real high and the wind whistled in her ears. Elsa was lonely. She missed her old home and bedroom. She missed all her friends from school. This house was big and dusty. It reminded Elsa of a museum. A bird flew from the chimney and down to the roof of the house. Elsa whistled to the bird and it flew down to the sill of the attic window. Elsa’s eyes widened. The window was open and the curtains were blowing in the breeze. The attic window was always closed. She starred up at the window as she slowed her swing. Elsa dug her shoes into the grass and came to a halt. It was most likely her mother but she could not help feeling spooked. She grabbed her doll and took off running toward the house.

“Mama!” Elsa stood at the foot of the staircase occasionally glancing behind her. “Mama!” When her mother did not answer, she decided to go on up. The stairs creaked beneath her weight and it gave her a start. She gasped and then became angry with herself. That stupid boy had succeeded in scaring her. Now she was the dumb baby. She was brave and her imagination was just getting the best of her. Elsa threw her doll angrily to the couch and then bounded up the steps. “Mama!” When she reached the hallway, she found herself staring at the attic stairwell. The attic door was cracked open and she could hear bird chirping outside the open window. Elsa started up the stairs and put her hand on the attic door. “Mama?” She opened the door as footsteps sounded behind her. She turned around and gasped. Her mother raised a brow at her.

“Elsa, what are you doing?” Elsa ran to her mother and wrapped her arms around her waist. Her mother stroked her head.

“Oh Elsa, you must stop this. What is the matter?” Elsa had decided there was someone in the attic. There had to be! Mother had been in her office all along.

“There is someone in the attic.” She said at last. Elsa wrapped her arms tighter around her mother and buried her face in her soft belly.

“Oh Elsa, it’s all in your head…Why would you say that?”

Elsa looked up and whispered, “The attic window is open.” Elsa’s mother furrowed her brow. She looked to the attic door and then pulled her daughter’s arms from her waist. She went up the attic steps and Elsa covered her mouth with fear. She stepped away from the stair case in anticipation. Her mother opened the door and went inside. She waited for her mother hoping that her mother would come out okay. Her breathing became easier when she saw the toes of her mother’s shoes coming down the stairs.

“There is no one up there and the window is closed. I have had enough of this now.” Elsa’s mother turned around and latched the attic door. This attic had a key attached to the door too and her mother held it up for Elsa to see, “And stop unlocking the attic!” Elsa tried to tell her mother that she had not unlocked the attic but her mother would not listen. Her mother sent her back down the stairs and told her not to bother her again until it was time for lunch.

The next couple of nights, Elsa slept with the covers bunched up around her neck and her dolls guarding the foot of her bed. There was someone in the attic. She just knew. She heard someone moving up there. Sometimes she thought she even heard a voice though she was unsure of what the person was saying. The most unfortunate part of it all was that Elsa could see the attic staircase from where she slept. She could see all the way down the dark hallway and she thought that at any moment, she would hear the sound of the attic door unlatching and unlocking. Sometimes in the night when she woke, she would find her mother sitting at the end of her bed. It would comfort her.

One weekend afternoon, while Elsa was outside on the front porch, she saw children playing in the street. They were playing kickball and Elsa thought she might join them. Kickball had always been a favorite game of hers to play. Back home all the children in the neighborhood would get together to play and they took it very seriously. Elsa saw that Max was coming out of his house too. Aw, why did that little brat have to come out? Elsa thought. She scrunched up her nose. The boys had stopped playing. The oldest one held the ball under his arm and said to Max,” What are you doing here?” Max told the boy that he had come to play too.

“Well, you can’t.” Elsa smiled at that. Good, she thought as she came closer to the boys.

“Well, why not?” Max said. He was hurt. Elsa asked the boy to kick it to her and she got a funny look in response.

“You’re a girl. You can’t play with us either. We were here first.” Max repeated his question again.

“Because we just don’t like you and we don’t want to play with you.” Elsa did not understand how a person could just decide to not like someone else without any reason at all. She wondered if they had been friends before and were fighting now. And she did not understand why since she was a girl, she couldn’t play. She had played kickball at home with both girls and boys.

“I’m really good at kickball! I’m the best!” The boys laughed at her.

They told her, “No girls allowed.” Elsa was furious. She shouted words at them she had heard adults get in trouble for saying. Elsa told Max to follow her.

“Let’s play hide and seek. If you’re not too scared to go inside.” Max starred up at the house with his big eyes and then shrugged. Elsa knew he was trying to seem brave. The children went inside the house and then out again to the back yard. They took turns playing hide and seek for most of the afternoon. Max would leave at sunset but soon the two children had become good friends. They played together every day. They played kickball together and she even got Max to agree to play dolls with her.

“Why is your hair so funny?” Elsa asked him and Max just shrugged.

“Your mother cuts it that way?”

“Yes but my father wears his hair this way too. It’s not funny at all.” Elsa sighed. To you maybe not, she thought. Elsa put her doll down and asked why Max had tried scaring her that first day they met.

“I didn’t try to scare you. It’s true. Your house is haunted.” Elsa shook her head but Max continued,” I even saw her that day! When we were playing hide and seek! She had opened the attic window and was watching us play.” Elsa gasped and looked up at the house. The attic window was shut now as her mother had left it the other day.

“You liar! You’re a big, lying pig.” Max crossed his arms. He looked back at the house too.

“I’m not lying. I’m telling you what I saw.” Elsa grabbed her dolls from Max. “Go home! You saw nothing and I don’t want you coming here anymore! My mother was right!” Max pushed himself to his feet and his face turned red.

“Fine! I was going home anyway!” The two children went back into the house. Max stormed out the front door and Elsa slammed the door shut behind him.

That night when Elsa woke, she was glad to find her mother sitting at the end of her bed. She had been afraid to go to sleep earlier.

Elsa wiped the sleep from her eyes and told her mother, “It’s okay, mama. I’m not scared anymore.” And that was the truth,” I don’t believe anything that boy says. You can go back to your room now.” Her mother did not answer her. She remained at the end of Elsa’s bed and Elsa starred at her mother’s back.

“Mama?” Elsa reached out for her mother and her mother turned to face Elsa. But it was not her mother at all. It was an old woman. Elsa’s breath caught in her throat and she fell backwards. She cried out and covered her head with the sheets. She cried and kicked and screamed until the sheet was ripped off her head. It was her mother then. She grabbed her mother and cried against her neck.

“Elsa, what’s the matter? Elsa tell me what’s wrong. Did you have a nightmare?” Elsa told her mother about the old woman and her mother told her that it was all just a horrible nightmare. Elsa’s mother picked her up into her arms and carried her to their bedroom. She would sleep in her parent’s bed that night.

The following morning, Elsa took a wooden spoon and started up the attics stairs. The daylight had given her new found bravery. After Elsa had thought about it, she realized that there was a grandmother in her attic. Someone’s grandmother was living in Elsa’s attic! Elsa thought for sure that this woman was not a ghost. She was there at the end of Elsa’s bed in flesh and blood. Ghosts were supposed to be white with chains around their ankles. Ghosts were supposed to moan and groan and rattle their chains. Still, Elsa gripped the wood spoon tight. She unlocked the attic with the bronze key and then took a hold of the latch. With a furrow of her brow, she pressed her ear against the cold door. No sound came from the other side. Elsa closed her eyes. She was not afraid of anything. Elsa was nearly ten and very tall for her age. Smart too, why should she be afraid? Then a faint noise was heard on the opposite side of the door. It sounded much like a latch opening and Elsa quickly checked to see that the attic door’s latch was still in place. Her heart pounded in her throat it seemed. Then Elsa heard the chirping of birds and the sound of the breeze. She stepped back from the attic door and gasped. The window! Elsa unlatched the door and hurried into the attic with her spoon pointing in front of her like a sword. The window had been opened but there was no one in the attic. Elsa looked around. She had never seen the attic before. There was a desk and a wardrobe and a window seat with a cushion. Elsa touched the desk and it seemed spotless. There was no dust at all. Elsa picked up a teddy bear from the ground and noticed that beneath the desk were cans of food stacked up in rows. She went to the window and pulled the curtains back looking down on the backyard where Max and her played every day. Elsa was sad. It must be very lonely up here, she thought. The attic door shut behind her and Elsa spun around. She held her spoon out and gasped. The old woman was standing there hunched over and watching her. She was truly terrifying looking and Elsa was ready to climb out the window. But when the old woman limped forward, Elsa lowered the spoon. Her lips parted and her brow furrowed.

“Here, let me help you!” Elsa hurried to the old woman and helped her to the window seat. The old woman was surprisingly heavy and she sat down with an oomph. “I’m…I’m very sorry. I shouldn’t have come up here.” The woman merely looked at Elsa. “It was you who has been sitting at the end of my bed at night. You knew that I was…well… I’ll admit I was frightened.” The woman reached out for Elsa and took her hand. Elsa thought how cold this hand is!

“Tell me your name, child.” Elsa told her and then asked for the old woman’s name. The old woman said her name was Julia. The girl smiled at the old woman and asked if she was a grandmother. The woman folded her hands together and nodded.

“Well yes, I am a grandmother. I have five grandchildren.”

“Five!” Elsa exclaimed. Elsa felt silly for ever being scared. The woman looked over the girl’s face and then went over the names and ages of all her grandchildren. Elsa listened as she went on about her grandchildren’s talents and then she went on about her own daughter who was the principal of an elementary school. Elsa pictured a tall strong woman with a fancy hat and smart glasses and five children at her waist. They stood at the foot of a large staircase in a grand ballroom.

“Well, where do they live?” Elsa asked the woman.

“Here, in Germany. Cologne.” They watched each other and Elsa decided that this woman must miss her family.

“Well…Why do you live here? Why are you here in this attic?” The woman looked down at her hands and Elsa thought she had said something wrong.

“I’m hiding.” The woman said.

“From us?” Elsa asked. She was surprised. She was sure her parents would not mind if this woman were to stay with them for a while. Besides, this woman had been here first. Didn’t that mean it was the woman’s house? Elsa and her parents were the intruders.

“No,” the woman said, “Listen Elsa, you must keep my presence here a secret. This is very important.”

“But why!” Elsa said, “Who are you hiding from?” Elsa wondered if she and her family should hide too.

“The German soldiers.” The woman said.

“I don’t understand!” Elsa looked over the woman and then stood, “Why would you hide from them? Have you done something wrong? The woman said nothing. She began to pick at the hem of her dress and Elsa became uncomfortable. Perhaps this woman had done something wrong…Though it was hard for Elsa to imagine that about Julia.

“You must not speak a word of my presence, Elsa. You must promise me.” Elsa felt that she was involved in something serious that she just did not understand.

“Well….I…Okay, I…I promise I won’t say anything.” Julia relaxed. She gave a nod of approval and then pat Elsa’s wrist.

“Thank you, Elsa.” Julia and Elsa sat and talked. Elsa loved the stories that Julia told about her childhood. Julia had traveled a lot when she was young. She had even been to Africa and Elsa wanted to know every detail. Then, Elsa told Julia all about herself. Her old home and her friends that she had there. Soon, Elsa began to worry that she had stayed in the attic too long with Julia. She didn’t want her mother to come in and find them both there. Elsa voiced this thought to Julia.

Then, Elsa sighed,” I guess I better go…” The old woman nodded.

“Thank you for keeping me company. It does tend to get lonely up here…” Elsa looked down at the cans of food and gestured to them.

“Is this all you’ve to eat?” The woman nodded.

“Hm, I’ll come back soon,” she said and went down the attic steps. She shut the door behind her, latching and locking it.

For lunch, her mother made them both a roast beef sandwich. Elsa took much longer to eat hers and her mother finished long before her.

“When you finish your sandwich, put your dish in the sink and clean up your mess.” Elsa said that she would and then watched her mother go upstairs. After Elsa finished her meal, she made a second sandwich and poured herself another glass of milk. After cleaning her mess, she hurried up the staircase and to the attic. She peered down the hallway to make sure her mother’s door was shut and then she set down the food to open the door. Inside the attic, the window was shut but the blind was pulled and the light frustrated Elsa’s sight.

“Julia?” Elsa whispered. She stepped inside and set the plate and glass down on the desk. The woman emerged from behind the wardrobe, startling Elsa. Elsa gasped and then smiled.

“I brought you something to eat.” The woman limped to the desk and looked down at the food. She smiled and thanked Elsa. This became a regular thing. Elsa would bring the woman food and then go back again to retrieve the dirty dishes. She talked every day to the old woman and soon she felt like she could really come to love the house. She just did not understand why Julia was hiding. She never heard her parents talk of any danger. She did not like to ask Julia because it upset the old woman. Since Max and Elsa had not been playing anymore, it felt nice to have someone to talk to.

One morning while Elsa was listening to the radio, there was the sound of the back gate rattling. She stood up and walked to the back of the house. When she looked out the door, she saw that Max and another boy were standing in her back yard and looking up at the attic window. Elsa shouted at them, she cursed them and they took off running. They climbed back over the gate and turned the corner out of sight. Elsa ran to the attic. She opened the door and went inside whispering Julia’s name. Julia was sitting at the window but it was shut and the curtains were drawn. Julia’s eyes were shut and her shoulders shook softly. Elsa realized that Julia was crying. When Elsa asked her what was the matter, Julia shook her head.

“Was it the boys?” Elsa asked.

“Oh, the boys,” the woman sobbed, “My boys, yes, they were taken from me. My boys and my daughter and all of my grandchildren. Lost from me forever.”

“What are you talking about? Why? What do you mean?” Elsa reached out and hugged Julia.

“I have to be alone. I’m sorry, Elsa. I’m not well right now. You should not have to see this.” Elsa shook her head but Julia told her to go once again and the second time was much firmer. Elsa whispered that Julia was not alone and then left. Elsa was starting school soon and it worried her. What if no one liked her? What if her hair was too plain or her shoes were not in fashion? She wanted so much to fit in and be liked. Her father laughed at her. He told her frivolous concerns such as those were not important. Her mother agreed, education mattered most. That didn’t help Elsa’s fears because the children did not think that at all. They did care about hair and shoes and frivolous concerns.

The day before school started, Elsa went to speak with Julia. She hoped that Julia would be in a better mood. On the other side of the attic door, she heard birds chirping and she smiled. She went inside and Julia was sitting at the window again, humming along with the bird. Elsa ran to Julia and hugged her.

She said,” I start school tomorrow!”

“Wonderful! Are you nervous?” Elsa nodded.

“Yes, I am.”

“What grade are you in?” Elsa held up her fingers to show what grade.

“Such a big girl! You won’t have anything to worry about. I always loved school.”

Elsa sighed,” I am afraid that the other children won’t like me.”

“Why?”

“Just…because they won’t like me.”

Julia stroked Elsa’s hair and said, “And don’t you know that they are all afraid of the same thing?” Elsa thought about it and looked down at her hands.

“They are?” Her voice was unsure.

Julia said,” I know this for sure. They only desire to fit in. ”

“You know a lot.” They smiled at each other and then there was a noise outside. It was a clicking. Elsa and Julia looked outside. It was Max and that other boy again spying on the house. Except this time, Max had a camera. He had snapped a picture! The window slammed shut and the glass seemed to crumble in the panes. Elsa let out a gasp and covered her ears. Julia stood.

“They’ve seen me! They will tell the soldiers that I am hidden here! They’ve seen me!” Elsa’s eyes widened to the size of quarters as she watched the woman pull at her hair and look around the room. Elsa stood.

“Hide in the wardrobe! I will get the picture back and get my parents to help you! They’ll understand! They won’t tell, I promise!” Julia did not seem to listen to Elsa. She continued to groan and pull at her hair. Elsa ran out of the attic and down the stairs.

“Mother! Mother!” She ran down the hallway and beat on her mother’s office door. “Mother! Please, hurry! Open the door!” The door swung open and her mother starred at her concerned.

“Elsa?! What is it? What’s happened? Are you alright?” Elsa’s mother relaxed a little when she saw that Elsa was alright. “You must come, mother! There is a woman in the attic! She’s hiding! Hurry! She needs your help!” Her mother knit her brows. She was frustrated.

“Elsa, what are you talking about? I’ve looked in the attic! I have work to do!” Elsa pulled her mother’s hand.

“Please, mother! Come on! She’s in danger! They are after her!”

“Who is after her? Who is she?” Elsa led her mother back to the attic. She pulled open the door and pushed her mother in. She waited as her mother looked around inside. Her mother sighed.

“Elsa.” Her voice was both stern and exhausted,” there is no one up here.”

“She’s in the wardrobe!” Elsa said.

“What wardrobe?” Elsa scrunched up her face.

“What? It’s right there!” Elsa hurried in to the attic after her mother. She felt as if her heart stopped. The attic was empty. There was no desk, no fans of food and no wardrobe. Elsa looked around. The floor was bare except for a few plastic furniture coverings. Elsa covered her mouth.

“Do you think this is a game, Elsa? Your poor mother has work to do. I don’t appreciate these tricks. I do not find them funny. I thought you were serious.”

“I am!” Elsa whispered and tears blurred her vision. “Impossible…” She turned back to her mother with an idea.

“Max took a picture of Julia and I. We were sitting at this window and he took a picture of us.”

“I have had enough of these games. Is this Max’s idea? Is he putting these notions into your head?” Elsa went out of the attic and called back to her mother to follow her. Her mother called her name with warning.

“Elsa!” But Elsa kept running. Julia was real. She had talked to her and hugged her! Julia had eaten the food she had brought. Elsa ran to Max’s house and knocked on the front door. When Max’s mother answered, Elsa could see Max standing behind her.

“Max!” Elsa yelled. She knew that she was being rude and that her mother would give her an earful for all this later. “Your son took a picture of me and I would like to have it!” Max’s mother turned to her son and raised a brow.

“What? It’s nothing bad…. It’s my picture!” Max said at last. But Max’s mother demanded that he bring the picture. He did. Elsa ran back to her mother who was standing on the porch with her arms crossed.

“Elsa. You are beginning to worry me.” Elsa handed her mother the picture. Her mother sighed.

“What am I looking for?”

“It’s a picture of Julia and I in the attic.” Elsa’s mother closed her eyes.

“Elsa, this is a picture of you in the attic. Just you, alone.” She turned the photo around so that Elsa could see. Elsa sat at the window seat alone as her mother had said.

“I don’t understand…Julia, she’s a grandmother…She was in hiding…in the attic! I was sneaking her food!”

“Oh Elsa, this is ridiculous, Hiding from who? You said there was a wardrobe? There wasn’t one.”

“But there’s one! She was hiding in there from the German soldiers! They were going to take her because of the war!” Elsa’s mother covered her mouth and handed the photo back to her. Elsa starred down at the photo in disbelief. Max must have given her the wrong photo.

“Elsa….Elsa, listen to me. That war ended a decade ago. There is no war….how? I don’t understand. The war has been over for years!”

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