Chapter Two Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-Three
2nd September 1974
“These are your aunts and cousins” Sjostedt said to Monique as the train pulled into the vast train station that was under the streets of the German Capital. “They are very curious about you but remember when dealing with your aunts to always be respectful.”
It had been a bewildering few days as she had watched Piers Sjostedt, who her grandmother said was her grandfather, call in a number of favors with shockingly prominent people to expedite the process of moving her out of Fossoy and to legally take up residence in Flensburg. The obvious problem was that she was French. There was also the issue of his family, the reality of which struck Monique as being completely unlikely if not insane. He had referred to them as the Diné, but they were known by a different name which she had only heard in movies, Navajo. And that despite having served in the German Army her grandfather had been born in Arizona near a place called Four Corners. There was also an open question as to whether or not the Aunts as he called them would accept her. It seemed that among the Diné that was any woman her mother’s age or older, regardless of blood relation.
That had been a bit hard for Monique to wrap her mind around, until it was pointed out that the structure of the bones in her face and her dark hair pointed directly to that heritage. There where other aspects of her appearance which could easily be attributed to his half-Danish background as well.
Sitting on a train pulling into the station, Monique was totally apprehensive about what was waiting for her. All of her meager belongings had fit in a suitcase, so it wasn’t a complicated process in getting off the train and stepping onto the platform. Her whole life, she had listened to what her neighbors had to say about the Boche. How they were harsh and militaristic. That officialdom was king. They were also frequently compared to bloodsucking lice by her neighbors with how they intruded where they were not welcome and took everything. The not so hidden pretext of those comments was that many had heard and/or spread the rumors about Monique’s father.
The scene on the platform was nothing like that, if anything it looked identical to what she had seen in Paris just a few hours earlier. There were businessmen identifiable by their suits and briefcases. Families greeting loved ones as they arrived home. There was a group of young people Monique’s age wearing brightly colored clothes that were artfully tattered. When they spotted a pair of soldiers wearing blue and grey dress uniforms, they began pantomiming what they thought soldiers did with exaggerated salutes and marching around comically. The two soldiers just shook their heads, laughed, and kept walking.
“Those are men from my old Regiment” Sjostedt said, “So, they have nothing to prove, not after what they did in South America.”
“How do you know that?” Monique asked.
“The patch on their shoulder” Sjostedt replied, “A fortress on a hill, I was there when the 140th Souville earned that.”
“I thought that you were a peace campaigner” Monique said.
“Yes” Sjostedt said, “And my experiences as one led me to the other.”
It was one of the odd contradictions that Monique had observed about her grandfather. He was proud of his time in the service, yet at the same time he had spent considerably more of his life in the cause of peace.
Climbing the stairs, they entered the waiting area of the train station. Monique had never been in a cathedral, but the wide space with long wooden bench seats and high ceilings lit by golden lights were as spectacular as she imagined they were.
Three elderly women warmly greeted Sjostedt. He had told Monique that they were Nina, Matilde, and Elisabeth. There were a handful of younger women and a shocking number of children. Monique realized they were her great aunts’ children and grandchildren, possibly great grandchildren as well. They all turned and looked at her.
“Our brother has told us a lot about you Monee” One of the women, presumably Nina said with a smile. “You are someone I never expected to meet.”
Monique was unsure how to respond to that, and all these people who came to meet her. What if she disappointed them?
“You are also very beautiful” Nina said in a stage whisper.
The first day at University and Marie’s head was spinning as she arrived back at the Blackwood House. The Professors had launched right into the coursework, obviously with the assumption that it was what they were there to do. She had inadvertently frontloaded her schedule because that was what she was used to. Only finding out later that few of her fellow students voluntarily signed up for a class before Nine O’clock in the morning unless they were left few other choices. The flip side of that was that her classes were done by early afternoon.
Heading into the kitchen, Marie was looking through the refrigerator looking for something that could be prepared quickly when Margot found her. She was a bit surprised that her grandmother even knew where the kitchen was. Mostly, she preferred to tell the Housekeeper who passed it on to the Cook what she wanted a few hours in advance.
“You don’t need to be as coarse as your mother” Margot said as she saw that Marie was preparing a sandwich.
“I don’t think that coarse is the right term Grand-mère” Marie replied, “My mother always believed that we should be self-sufficient.”
She almost called Margot Oma out of long habit, but her Grandfather had warned her that it would be rather provocative to do so if she wanted to remain a guest in this house.
“We will have to agree to disagree” Margot said handing Marie an envelope, “This letter arrived for you and is this normal for you?”
It was a bit disappointing that someone had opened the letter, Marie thought to herself as she removed it from the envelope skimmed through it, but that probably wouldn’t have done them much good as it was written entirely in Japanese script. Marie wondered how Margot would react if she knew the letter was from Suga asking how she was adjusting to living in a new city and going to university.
“Yes” Marie replied without elaborating.
“You really are a polyglot?”
Marie just shrugged and smiled.