When Breindl tells Kalonymous he will have to ask permission before baking next time, he takes it to mean that Breindl will throw him out. He runs from the house and sobs, alone, until Zayit picks him up and walks with him. Zayit invites Kalonymous to work in his orange orchard.
* * *
The time spent at the Hohmanns’ would have been idyllic if it hadn’t come out of such difficult circumstances. Hershel got so good at sewing that Lilli could hand him a stack of mending in the morning and he’d be done by late afternoon.
Dovid’l became a boy again. His job was to care for the two large dogs Marlies kept, supposedly for security, but Lilli suspected she just liked the look of them. They were a matched set of handsome German spaniels, their coats a gleaming auburn. When they stood on their hind legs, they were nearly twice Dovid’l’s size, but they were tame and friendly, and he cared for them without fear.
Only Kalonymous had trouble settling in. Once he revealed his baking abilities, Lilli had him bake every day, and once she learned of his handyman abilities, she had plenty to keep him busy.
It was Bertie, though, who pulled the entire household together. Every evening after supper, when everything was tidied and put away, she’d sit down at the grand piano, playing magnificently.
To Kalonymous it sounded like crystal glass bells, each one delicately tapped to bring out its pure tone. Sometimes, he’d clasp his hands behind his head and stare up at the ceiling while the music played, as though he were watching the notes dance up there. Marlies observed him sometimes, interested to see that there was more to the boy than the gruff exterior he showed the world.
After the music, there were games. They played hide-and-seek on rainy days, when Hershel always found the best hiding places and was rarely “it.” Kalonymous played reluctantly; since Dovid’l was afraid to hide alone, Kalonymous would hide with him. His surprise when they’d be found was always genuine. In the warm weather they played games on the lawn, mostly running around in circles and laughing.
And every night, the younger boys said their prayers.
Kalonymous still insisted on sleeping on the floor and they had stopped arguing with him and let him be, so he did not participate. Hershel suspected something was not right and was starting to hold back, but Dovid’l knew no better and Kalonymous did not feel he could put a stop to it without jeopardizing them. He fell asleep in a twist of emotions every night, wondering how one drop of poison could ruin a whole pot of food.
The idyll would have gone on, perhaps indefinitely, if the boys did not wake up one day to a deathly still house. It was never noisy, but there was always a hum of purpose and activity. On this day, there was nothing. No one had woken them up or called them for breakfast, and as they rose from the bed they could intuitively sense that something was terribly wrong.
“Lilli?” called Kalonymous, sticking his head inside the kitchen door. “Are you there?”
When there was no reply, Kalonymous stepped inside and found the stern maid at the table with her head in the crook of her arm. When she looked up, her eyes were red and swollen from crying.
“What’s happened?” asked Kalonymous.
“The mistress … she is dead!”
Dovid’l began to wail, not because he understood what was happening, but because the tension and foreboding sliced through him like a knife. Hershel said nothing.
Kalonymous tried to work his mouth to speak, but could not get the sounds he was making to form coherent syllables. He knew there were polite questions he should be asking, and those were the ones he was trying to say, but underneath was the biggest question of all: What will happen to us now?
The answer to that question was swift in coming. Bertie was shipped off to her mother in England. When she came to say good-bye to them, Kalonymous remembered her grandmother’s words, and indeed, it felt like she was parting from pets she’d grown particularly fond of. There was no mention of bringing them with her, or helping them find another home. She simply packed her case, and left without a backward glance.
Lilli felt a bit more remorse, but even she didn’t know anyone who would take three Jewish boys now. The political air had heated to near boiling, and the children were lucky they’d survived until now without being swept up in the evil net that had settled over Germany. This land was the worst place for them to be but, with no alternative, she packed them up with food and blankets, and sent them on their way.
The boys were stunned at their drastic change of fate. At first, all they could do was sit in the small wood behind the house and watch the life slowly drain out of it. First the dogs disappeared into a farmer’s wagon. Large trucks came and hauled away the furniture and rugs, and finally, they saw Lilli march off with a small suitcase at her side, in the direction of the train station. They realized they knew nothing about her — where she lived, where she was going — and when she was finally gone, they knew they were truly alone.
The food Lilli gave them finished before they knew it, and that was when Kalonymous started picking fruit from trees.
To be continued . . .