Passages

Passages

Chapter One – 1942, The Netherlands 

          A wisp of cloud covered the quarter moon for a brief moment. The woman dressed in a dark

frock and black shoes glided out of the alley, glanced around to assure herself no one was watching,  

then crossed the pebbled street to a small storefront. She was not surprised the area was deserted this 

night, but one couldn’t be too careful. Though the curfew German Nazis had enforced would not begin  

for another hour, most people preferred to stay in with curtains drawn after dark.  

          Shadows in the lane hid the shop’s side door from view. The woman checked the area once  

more, then slipped around the corner of the storefront. To the right of the small door was a flat rock.  

She pulled a pen and scrap of paper out of her dress sleeve, scribbled two words and then folded it.  

After bending to lift the edge of the rock and position the paper beneath it, she straightened and moved  

away, as silent as the cloud now sliding beyond the moon. 

          The unexpected trill of a nightingale split the quiet of the night, startling the woman. Heart  

pounding, she skittered across the street and down a narrow passageway along a hedge to the back door  

of her home.  

          Less than ten minutes had passed by the time she had her apron retied around her waist and was  

at the sink washing the remaining supper dishes. Certain her husband hadn’t missed her, she placed the

last dried cup in the cupboard. While the dishwater drained she tidied the area around the sink until it  

was spotless, willing her heart to slow as she worked.  

          Satisfied the kitchen was immaculate, she removed her apron, hung it on its peg and walked  

through the dining room to the parlor where her husband was reading a book, a tendril of smoke curling  

up out of his pipe. 

          “You have sawdust on your shirt,” she scolded, picking the offending speck from his shoulder. 

          “It does no harm, Mem,” he said, his eyes still on the book.  

          Mem felt peevish. Her nerves had been jangled by that ridiculous bird. She brushed his shirt  

again, trying to find more evidence of his carelessness. She was aching for a fight.  

          “You know how hard it is to keep the sawdust off the rugs,” she fussed. “It gets inside the tufts  

and it’s impossible to get it out. Then the rug begins to wear…” 

          “One little bit will not ruin it,” he said, his voice calm. 

          Mem set her mouth into a thin line and marched out of the room. He had no idea how much  

work she put into keeping their home tidy. The maids seldom did the work right. How many new ones

 hadn’t she hired in the past few years? No matter. None of them cleaned to her satisfaction. The latest 

one was sent packing yesterday, and then she’d had to scrub every inch of the house herself.  

          His voice came through the open dining room door. “Shouldn’t Nieka be home by now? I don’t  

like her being out after dark. So many soldiers in town these days, and with the curfew…” 

          “She’s 26,” Mem snapped, rattling the teacups in the china closet as she rearranged them. “Old  

enough. She should be married instead of carousing with that Marta person.” 

          “At least she’s having some fun. Marta never lets a moment be dull.”

           Mem felt anger rise as she thought of her daughter’s broken engagement. He had been the  

perfect match for Nieka–wealthy, ambitious and handsome. So what if he had dabbled a bit on the  

side? Many men did. Nieka never should have let him get away. That girl was far too fussy. Mem  

looked at the cups, decided they had looked better the first time, and reset them all.

5 responses

8 09 2010
Trudy Block

Excellent! Your opening draws us immediately into a story, word pictures tell it in clarity. You use words frugally enough to speed us onto what follows. I could even “sense” the Dutch way of speaking by expressions used, rather than actual language. We are introduced to personality traits that appear under stress and which get us into their psyches: one calm, one frazzled because of her morning efforts.
Your topic holds so much drama that I think there is enough to write endlessly without running out. So much already with this small beginning! Keep it going (and invite me to the book signing!)

8 09 2010
Linda

Wow Terri …… loved reading it!! So this is what you are pouring your heart and soul into? I will be proud to say “that is my friend Terri” who wrote that book when we all get our signed copy!!

8 09 2010
Michele

Love it Mom. I would really like to read the whole thing! Do I get special privileges to read it early since I’m your favorite daughter? 🙂

8 09 2010
Penny

No fair teasing us with this great opening. Bravo engaging the reader at the get go! Hope to see you at the conference.

9 09 2010
Lynn

You are teasing me! More, more, more!

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