Write at the Merge: The Third Mistake

For this week’s prompt, your inspiration comes from two words (you are not required to use these words, though you may):

Gossamer: noun; a fine, filmy substance consisting of cobwebs spun by small spiders, which is seen esp. in autumn. (I cheated and used another definition of Gossamer, which is “a gauze or silk fabric of the very finest texture.”)

Affinity: noun; a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for someone or something.

A soft rain fell. The alley cobblestones glistened in the pale street light. Erica stood under the brick archway. In the distance, a slight figure entered the alley. Lena was on time. Her coal black hair was hidden in a dark scarf and she carried one small sack. She was thinner than the last time Erica saw her.

Lena had always been nice to Erica, not like the other girls who made fun of Erica’s chubby body and spotty face. Even though Lena was Jewish, they became friends until Henrik saw Lena. He’d just returned from school and was working in the bakery when Lena came to visit.

Erica watched as Lena’s brown eyes glowed and her cheeks grew pink as Henrik chatted with her. She saw Henrik’s blue eyes widened when his fingers lightly touched Lena’s hand on the glass counter. Erica sighed. He’d always had an affinity for the pretty ones.

After that day, Lena and Henrik were inseparable. Oh, they tried to include Erica, but she’d felt like a small and ugly afterthought. She and Henrik had been promised to each other since they were babies, but he loved Lena and Lena loved him. That was Lena’s first mistake.

Then the war came and Henrik left to fight. He gave Erica money and begged her to protect Lena. She said she would do everything she could and he believed her. She’d worked hard to keep Lena safe, but when Henrik got leave, Lena got pregnant. That was Lena’s second mistake.

Erica watched as Lena navigated the slippery alley cobblestones through the mist. Leaning back in the shadows, she waited to surprise Lena. She was supposed to be at the boat that would take Lena to safety. Erica had planned the entire escape. She was good with details.

There was a splash as boots approached from the street. She peeked out and saw the familiar tall man in his field gray coat with the Swastika armband. Three soldiers were with him, one was Henrik, as Erica had requested. Seeing him made her stomach flip-flop.

Lena reached the alley opening and stopped to catch her breath. Erica stepped out of the shadows. Lena jumped, but recognized her friend and smiled. Erica didn’t smile. Instead she shoved Lena outside to the waiting men and said, “Guess what, Lena? The plans have changed.”

The tall man grabbed Lena’s arm and said, “Lena Jacobssen, come with me.”  He didn’t wait for a response, but pulled Lena so hard; she tripped and fell to her knees on the wet street. Her sack opened; a gossamer silk scarf spilled out. Erica recognized it as belonging to Lena’s mother. Too bad, it was ruined, like Lena. The tall man jerked Lena up. Henrik started to move towards her, but the man glared at him. Henrik stepped back.

Lena called out to Erica, “I trusted you.” Erica smiled and whispered, “That was your third mistake.” She watched as Lena was dragged away.


Alternative Ending

Everybody does alternative endings now. Here’s my take at my own alternative ending:~)

Lena called out to Erica, “I trusted you.” Erica smiled and whispered, “That was your third mistake. She watched as Lena was dragged away.

But her eyes got big as the tall man stopped and tore off his armband smiling at her, “The plans have changed. Not all of us are Nazis.” Henrik pulled Lena up and turned her to face him. She started to speak; he shook his head and said, “Close your eyes, Lena. Do it now.” Lena did and she heard a cry; then a gunshot. The tall man said, “Push her body inside the alley. The rats will find their own kind.”


30 comments on “Write at the Merge: The Third Mistake

  1. Amanda says:

    I love this! World War II has always been one of my favorite time periods to read about. I also love the alternate ending – great twist to the story! Visiting from Write On Edge.

  2. Wow, Sara!

    This is riveting. I found all the names hard to follow at first, but once I got them, wow. What an incredible story.

    The alternate endings are a nice touch. I’m struggling over which I prefer. With the first, wouldn’t Henrik have done something to prevent Lena’s capture? Or would he have been too frightened of the repercussions? This would be great in a longer format to explore the relationship between a Jewish woman and a Nazi soldier. Would it have been kept secret? Was he hiding her?

    This is the kind of writing that makes me want to read more, which is my favorite kind.

    • Sara says:

      @ Angie — WOW. I really appreciate your comment. Thanks for your words of encouragement. I had fun with the alternative ending. MY challenge was to keep in same number of words. By the end, I wasn’t sure if it was the same, but I had fun:~)

      I think maybe the one mistake I made in this story was not clear about the GERMAN soldiers. One thing I tried to get across is that not ALL German soldiers were Nazis. It is confusing…perhaps I can pull this in in another story.

      Again, I really thank you for your kind words.

  3. jean sampson says:

    What a sad and powerful story, Sara. I was totally not expecting either ending! And, contrary to your usual style, there were no happy endings in sight. And that is life sometimes! Your writing has gotten REALLY good and gripping! I really get into the things you write now! Good use of the prompt words! Powerful writing, Sara!

  4. suZen says:

    Hi Sara!
    You can take a word and spin some tale! Wow. What fun as a writer, eh? I have 3 boxes for mine. One has characters, one locations, one problems. I’ll dip in, mix ’em up and what pops up is surprising!

    This story of yours, either ending, is fantastic!

    • Sara says:

      @ SuZen — That’s a cool idea. I should pass on the Cameron who does the prompts for Write in the Merge.

      I pleased you liked the story:~)

  5. Valerie says:

    You wield some wicked (and delicious) words here, Sara! I loved the way you emphasized the progression of this little story by underscoring the “mistakes” that Lena made. I like the first ending, but I like the second too. Erica had it coming, after all…

    • Sara says:

      @ Valerie — I couldn’t let Erica get away with it. Plus, as I said to Angie, I wanted to emphasize that not all German soldiers believed the same as the Nazis. With more words, I might have made that clearer, but this is the challenge isn’t it?

      Thanks for the read and your comment:~)

  6. Chris Edgar says:

    Hi Sara, good to see you back again. Yes, like Jean said, I was expecting the women to daringly escape together like a WWII-era Thelma and Louise, but you surprised me by having Erica succumb to her jealousy. Looking forward to more of your work!

    • Sara says:

      @ Chris — Yeah, jealousy can make people do some really bad things. That wasn’t a good time in Germany for friends or foes. No one really knew who to trust.

      Thanks for the read and your nice comment:~)

  7. Linda says:

    Excellent story! Real characters, good detail, and I can visualize the entire story. I do like the alternate ending best. It is a much happier one, and that is more like you.

    • Sara says:

      @ Linda — You know too well. I couldn’t resist. Erica had to get her just desserts:~)

      Thanks for nice words and for reading this story!

  8. Kelvin Kao says:

    You know, knowing that you usually put a happy ending in makes it more surprising to see that ending. (And that, was my first mistake.) My anticipation and hope for the happy ending got killed dead in the track, so that gave an even bigger impact for me.

    But once I accepted the first ending, the second ending just seemed a little forced and far-fetched. Funny how our minds work when it comes to first impressions, eh?

    Speaking of alternative endings, have you seen the 1985 film “Clue”? I thought it was quite brilliant.

    • Sara says:

      @ Kelvin — You’re right. It probably is best to stick with one ending, but I just couldn’t…you know me, I don’t like the bad guys…well, in case “woman”…to win. Still, it was fun to write both.

      I always appreciate your visits and your comments. Thank you for reading this:~)

  9. Hilary says:

    My gosh Sara .. that was brilliant – I loved it .. so English or European with its cobblestones and atmosphere …

    You really must write a few more of these and put them in an anthology or collection …

    Very sad – but so so true to life no doubt …

    I feel for them watching the snow settle here … positively thought it was superb … cheers Hilary

    • Sara says:

      @ Hilary — Thank you very much. I’m pleased you liked the story. I don’t about the anthology, but I do have fun writing…you never what the MUSE will pull out of her hat:~)

      Cheers back you!

  10. Totally not cheating. We have no requirements about specific definitions. Take your inspiration as you will!

    So glad to see you back here with us!

  11. Pea says:

    Oooer!…Loved it! More! More! I love the turnaround of events in such quick time and yet you can still grab hold of the story and shiver with excitement at Erica’s duplicity.

    I think, (in my humble etc), that the first ending was just fine. I was no more fulfilled by the comeuppance of Erica…and do think about what Hilary said for future reference.
    Gold star – please go to the top of the class.

    • Sara says:

      @ Pea — It’s nice to see out and about:~) I’m glad you liked the story. I suppose what happened to Erica wasn’t so pleasant either, was it?

      Thank you very much for dropping by and reading this story!

  12. Pea says:

    Extra note: Angie above said she found all the names hard to follow at first – so did I – and in the interest of honest, smarm-free critique I didn’t mention it because I thought it was just me. It’s interesting and I don’t know why that was the case in this story, but there you go.

    I also don’t think it is your responsibility as the creative genius to explain that not every German was a wicked Nazi.

    • Sara says:

      @ Pea — I saw this about the names and agree. There’s always room for improvement in a writer’s world. If I wrote the perfect story, what would I do next? So, constructive feedback is always desired. It teaches what I need to work on. Thanks:~)

  13. Pea says:

    Oh dear, another note, (go away pea!): I just read your comment properly: ‘not every German SOLDIER was a Nazi’ – I didn’t know that. I thought it went with the uniform. Unless you mean not every German soldier was a Nazi SYMPATHIZER which is (pedantic I know!) and slightly different.

  14. pea says:

    …okay read it, really interesting as were the folks comments following it.

    PS – I forgot to add in my critique that the name thing did not distract from the story at all (loved the story) which is weird but there you go.

    Onwards and upwards!

    • Sara says:

      @ Pea — Back from the Wise Geek? Thanks about the names and if you’re weird then so am I.

      By the way, I really like reading your post about The Afghan Girl. We all that stunning picture of the girl with the green eyes, but reading about the story behind the picture made it more poignant and brought home to reality.

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