Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Fifteen
7th September 1967
Spending the summer in the Hohenzollern Castle, Sophie’s return to her normal life had not been easy. There, all the girls had worn the same clothes and gone about the same daily routine, so they had all seen themselves as equals. Now she was back to being the strange little girl in the old, ill-fitting clothes who no one liked. The clothes had been her mother’s from when she had attended school twenty years earlier and Sophie had been told that she ought to be grateful that they had been provided to her.
The sun was setting which meant that Sophie was out of excuses, she needed to go home. It had gotten especially bad since she had returned from the Summer Holiday which was why she had taken to spending her afternoons just walking wherever her feet would take her. Before she had left for the castle her family had been gleeful at the prospect of having her being gone for a month. What she hadn’t expected was the icy reception she got upon returning. Her mother had been especially livid, and Sophie didn’t understand why. The first day back she tried to tell her the story about the lightning storm, how the wind had blown open the window and that had even startled Marie who was very brave… Her mother had looked at her with rage in her eyes and told that no one cared, so she needed to forget about it.
Walking up the stairs of her building, Sophie looked at the door of the apartment which her grandparents had lived in for decades. It was where Sophie and her mother lived as well, though she had struggled to call it home when she had described it to Nan and Nella. Using her key to unlock the door, Sophie eased the door open just enough to slip through. The blue glow meant that the television was on in the parlor and she could hear her grandfather grumbling about the day’s events. The smell of the cheap cigarettes her grandfather smoked hung in the air. How Jews and Communists, or whatever they were calling themselves these days, were ruining the world. When Sophie had described it to Marie, her friend had said that it sounded like her grandfather blamed everyone but himself for things. That had been when she had realized that her grandfather was an embarrassment. Her grandmother never said a word these days and probably couldn’t even if she wanted to. Sophie had once heard her mother say that she had suffered a stroke, whatever that meant.
Making sure that she was silent, Sophie moved slowly down the hallway careful to make sure she wouldn’t be seen from the parlor. The door to her bedroom was only a few paces away, just get inside unnoticed, close the door and she would be as free as she ever was here in this place. She could see that the light was on in the kitchen but couldn’t hear movement. Darting past the door to the kitchen, Sophie closed her hand around the doorknob…
Only to get grabbed by the ear and dragged into the kitchen. Sophie’s attempt to get her mother to let go caused her mother to twist her ear causing her to howl in pain. Sophie was roughly shoved onto one of the kitchen chairs.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve done!” Sophie’s mother yelled at her while waving a letter around. “You’re a goddamned wrecking ball destroying everyone cursed enough to have you!”
Sophie had no idea what her mother was talking about.
“What did you tell them?” Sophie’s mother demanded, “And don’t you dare lie to me!”
Sophie didn’t dare say a word, she knew from painful experience that once she was accused of lying then nothing she said would be believed.
“A routine medical examination on your daughter revealed that she was malnourished and her reactions in certain situations causes us to suspect abuse!” Sophie’s mother read aloud from the letter before giving her a venomous look.
“I don’t know when…” Sophie started to say, only to get slapped hard across the face, she didn’t want to but the pain and shock of that caused her to start crying. She had no idea what her mother was talking about. There had been the time that she had cut herself helping the Cooks in the castle’s kitchens and she had been brought to Princess Kristina to see if she needed stitches, she hadn’t. After that Kristina had given her a carton of chocolate milk and told her to go join the other girls. But that didn’t sound like a medical exam. Sophie had seen those on television, and they involved going into a Doctor’s office. Didn’t they?
“My God” Sophie’s mother snapped, “We give you food, but you don’t eat it. Now you see fit to lie to Doctors about your family.”
One of Sophie’s bitterest lessons revolved around food. She had eaten something without permission and had been severely punished for it. Since then she had rarely taken anything from the pantry or refrigerator. And because what passed family meals with her family were absolutely excruciating Sophie took as little as possible so that she wouldn’t have to hear about how she was a drag on them, another mouth to feed.
“You have been ruining my life since before you were born” Sophie’s mother said, “One thing after another, now this? You’re pathetic!”
Her mother punctuated that last part by hitting Sophie on the side of her head hard enough to send her sprawling out of the chair.
“Will you keep it down in there!” Sophie’s grandfather bellowed from the parlor, which caused one of the neighbors to start pounding on the wall.
“Where are your little friends now?” Sophie’s mother asked coldly to her as she lay on the kitchen floor crying, before walking out of the room.