Volume 28, Number 3

Once the Fields Were Filled with Butterflies

John C. Mannone

Leonard was a well-dressed skinny kid, who stared at the new girl in class, his eyes bulging through dark-rimmed lenses. Her name was Rebecca, with hair fine as black silk sashaying below her waist. Her skin, soft olive. Frau Meister noticed Leonard ogling and slapped her foot hard against the tiles, while snapping her fingers. Rebecca tried to conceal her giggles, but soon found herself under the wrath of that schoolmistress.

Furtively, the two teens would meet after school and simply hold hands, even after their many, ever so gentle kisses. For weeks, they’d steal into the garden beyond the red brick wall of their high school. The Jewish boy was never without a smile, and she, never without a kind word.

Sometimes they didn’t say anything at all, they’d just let their eyes speak to each other when the air was as thick as buttermilk and the fields were filled with butterflies.

One afternoon, the radio broadcast in the main office was so loud they could hear it in the classroom, but it was hard to make out the words from the applause. They didn’t understand what was happening, but it sounded like good news. Leonard asked the teacher what was going on, but she only sneered at him, told him to be quiet and to get back to his work.

More and more assignments were levied on them keeping the students very busy. It was nearly impossible for Leonard and Rebecca to secret away by the wisteria and chamomile where they liked to lie in innocence. They didn’t know any better, and when they were caught, they were escorted downtown. The school called for their parents.

Their eyes locked on each other as they were separated, glistening a fear that their lips would never touch again. They waved and cried as they were herded onto the trains.

But they would eventually be together again, along with their parents, in Auschwitz.