Chapter Two Thousand One Hundred Fifty-Nine
28th July 1972
The building was new they said, built in the last few years. Mathilda couldn’t have said if it was or not as she sat on her bed with her chin resting on her knees and her back against the wall. Instead, she found herself oddly homesick for Wollin Island, the place she had been desperate to escape just days earlier. She had been brought here, what she was told was a State School for Girls which was supposed to be a safe place for her until they figured out what to do with her. It left Mathilda wondering exactly what an unsafe place would look like, because this didn’t seem too safe to her. She was surrounded by tough city girls who talked so fast that she could hardly keep up with what they were saying, and the things they said… It was terrifying.
Before they had sent her here, she had been grilled by adults, asking why and how she had snuck into the Potsdam Barracks. When Mathilda tried to answer those, she only made matters worse. She had refused to answer further questions until a man who introduced himself as Stefan had talked to her. He had been honest with her, telling Mathilda that she wasn’t actually in trouble but had made a mistake that had embarrassed a lot of important people who were worried about their careers. He had convinced her that the best thing she could do was show him exactly how she had gotten inside the Military Base.
Once that was over, she had been taken to a woman who identified herself as a Social Worker and she had a set of questions of her own. They were all about Mathilda herself and as she discovered, she didn’t seem to know the answers to any of them. Had she attended school at all? Did she have a Social Insurance Number? Had she ever been taken to see a Doctor? Were there immunization records for her somewhere? She kept saying that she didn’t know or got confused as to what was being asked. Finally, Mathilda was asked a question she did know the answer to. Had she been born on Wollin Island? She had said yes to that. Only to get asked why had they been unable to find a record of her birth in Western Pomerania?
When Mathilda said she didn’t know after that last question, the Social Worker had just sighed. She then said that she would need to get her stepson to intercede directly on her behalf because Mathilda was obviously one of his subjects even her parents were being idiotic luddites. Mathilda had asked what that meant only to get told that it wasn’t important. She needed to be taken to the hospital immediately because it was actually dangerous for her to be around other people.
Mathilda had spent the next couple days getting poked and prodded in the hospital. Had blood drawn from both her arms and given a number of injections that she was told would prevent her from getting sick. Then she had been sent on to the State School. Unfortunately, she had also lost everything she had brought with her from Wollin Island in the process and had never felt so lonely in her life. Everything was unfamiliar, from the clothes she was wearing to the room that she was now sharing with another girl who didn’t want to talk to her. At the moment, they were in the midst of the Summer Holiday which seemed to Mathilda involve a whole lot of complaining about being bored.
“Can you come with me Mathilda?” Frau Weber, the Matron who managed this floor and the thirty odd girls who lived on it asked.
Mathilda reluctantly followed. She had been warned about how being obstinate would only make things worse for her. She was unsure how that was possible but having that happen on only the second day here seemed rather foolish.
“Your visitor is a very important man, and he has come a long way to see you” The Matron said as they descended down the stairs. “Please be respectful.”
“Yes, Ma’am” Mathilda replied. That was how she had answered every question the Matron had asked. It seemed to be the right tact.
“I will wait by the door” The Matron said as Mathilda passed her, “If you and made to feel uncomfortable at all, understand that you are free to leave the room at any time.”
Mathilda cautiously entered a room where this important man was waiting. He old, far older than even Mathilda’s father, but where her father was bald and fat, this man was thin, and his hair was totally white. The glasses he wore as well as the tweed jacket he wore made him look like the Professors in the comic books that she had read on the sly with Wulfstan before he went away to the Army.
“Good morning, Fraulein Auer” The man said, “I am Doctor Holz, and I was asked by a dear friend to see you today.”
That nearly caused Mathilda to bolt from the room. The last thing she needed was another Doctor.
“I am not here to conduct an exam” Doctor Holz said, looking at her arms which still had bruising on them from when she had been jabbed earlier in the week. “All I want to do is talk.”
“Talk?” Mathilda asked, “About what?”
“Anything you want” Doctor Holz said, “I’m curious about what is going on in that head of yours.”
“Why should I tell you?” Mathilda asked.
“To unburden yourself” Doctor Holz replied, “To know that you are not alone in your feelings. I am someone who will not judge you and anything said will be in the strictest of confidence.”
“I don’t believe that” Mathilda said. In her experience, no one could keep a secret for long and everyone judged everyone.
“Perhaps a show of good faith first” Doctor Holz said before he produced the drawstring bag that held Mathilda’s clothes and belongings. “And I am sure that you particularly want this back.”
He handed Mathilda the silver Mjölnir pendant on a leather necklace. “That really is beautiful craftmanship, it looks like the original that I saw in the National Museum in Stockholm” He said.
Mathilda waited for a snide comment about her religion to follow, but it never came. Instead, Doctor Holz just waited for her to reply.