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Unformatted text preview: er—to watch her watching. The idea of being caught out plagued and enthused her at the same
time. She dreaded it. She invited it. Only when Mama called out to her could she drag herself away,
simultaneously soothed and disappointed that she might not be there when he woke.
Sometimes, close to the end of the marathon of sleep, he spoke.
There was a recital of murmured names. A checklist.
Isaac. Aunt Ruth. Sarah. Mama. Walter. Hitler.
Family, friend, enemy.
They were all under the covers with him, and at one point, he appeared to be struggling with himself. “Nein,”
he whispered. It was repeated seven times. “No.”
Liesel, in the act of watching, was already noticing the similarities between this stranger and herself. They both
arrived in a state of agitation on Himmel Street. They both nightmared.
When the time came, he awoke with the nasty thrill of disorientation. His mouth opened a moment after his
eyes and he sat up, right-angled.
A patch of voice escaped his mouth.
When he saw the upside-down face of a girl above him, there was the fretful moment of unfamiliarity and the
grasp for recollection— to decode exactly where and when he was currently sitting. After a few seconds, he
managed to scratch his head (the rustle of kindling) and he looked at her. His movements were fragmented, and
now that they were open, his eyes were swampy and brown. Thick and heavy.
As a reflex action, Liesel backed away.
She was too slow.
The stranger reached out, his bed-warmed hand taking her by the forearm.
“Please.” His voice also held on, as if possessing fingernails. He pressed it into her flesh.
It was late afternoon, gray and gleaming, but it was only dirty-colored light that was permitted entrance into the
room. It was all the fabric of the curtains allowed. If you’re optimistic, think of it as bronze.
When Papa came in, he first stood in the doorway and witnessed Max Vandenburg’s gripping fingers and his
desperate face. Both held on to Liesel’s arm. “I see you two have met,” he said.
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- Winter '13