Today's Reading

Anna's doll lay on the bed next to her. But he couldn't carry Anna, food, and the doll. He reached over his six-year-old sister, untied the orange ribbon in the doll's hair, and crammed the colorful strand in his pocket.

"Anna." He shook her shoulder. "We have to go to Tante Cora's."

Her eyelids fluttered. "Huh?"

"It's time to go."

"Why?"

How could he tell his little sister that the Gestapo had hunted down Els and wanted them next? "It'll be all right. Tante Cora will take care of us." Anna's limp body resisted his effort to sit her up. "And we'll play a game on the way. We won't let anyone see or hear us. It'll be like hide-and-go-seek at Oma and Opa's."

"I love Oma and Opa," she said, still half asleep.

"Yes. And they love their grandchildren, too."

Anna's long blonde hair swung forward when Dirk sat her up on the bed to slide clothes on over her pajamas. He scooped her up and hurried down to the kitchen. While she dozed on a chair, he yanked open a cupboard. He stuffed a half dozen potatoes into his pockets, shoved a loaf of bread under his shirt, and tossed a dozen apples into a bag. Wish I could carry more. Dirk threw on his coat and helped Anna with hers but only took time to fasten a few buttons on each jacket. He grabbed the bag of clothes, slung the bag of apples over his shoulder, and lifted Anna in his arms, but she was heavier than he expected. Uh-oh. He shifted her onto his back, and she leaned into him.

"We're going to play the quiet game now. You can go back to sleep."

"Uh-huh," she murmured.

Dirk scurried away from the house, his muscles taut, looking left and right like radar scanning for enemy aircraft. The moon provided enough light for him to see. Papa would know how to keep from being spotted. But Papa isn't here. It's up to me.

At the edge of their farm, they passed a white birch tree, Mama's favorite, but Dirk couldn't bear to look at it. It brought back too many memories. His voice cracked as he said softly, "I'll protect Anna, Mama. I promise."

He glanced back and suddenly regretted his strategy. He'd chosen the most direct route to Doorwerth. But the road threaded through farm country, with few places to hide if someone approached. What if a dog barked or if one sleepless person looked out the window? Car headlights would be obvious from a distance, but what if the Gestapo rode swift and silent on bicycles? Though the Dutch rode bikes more than the Germans, if anyone was out on a bike after curfew, it would be the Nazis. Dirk's chest tightened. And what if they raided his home and then searched the roads for him? It'd be easy for them to catch him when he was carrying Anna. He frowned.

Also, this road was parallel to the train tracks. The Germans moved troops at night by train to be less visible to Allied planes. What if just one soldier on a passing train saw two children out this late after curfew?

Three more kilometers to Tante Cora's. That would be a lot of time out in the open. A patrol would arrest him for being out at night even if they didn't know his papa was Hans Ingelse.

That wasn't all. His arms and legs were rapidly tiring from carrying Anna on his back. He wouldn't be able to carry her all the way to Tante Cora's. He needed a place for them to hide and rest overnight. But where? They'd already scurried past several farms of people he didn't know if he could trust and one who definitely couldn't be trusted.

Dirk bit his lower lip, and his right hand started trembling again.

"Don't go out after dark." Dirk could hear Papa's words as if he had said them yesterday, though it had been a few years earlier, when the Germans started cracking down after the Dutch went on strike. "If the Germans see you out at night, they'll bring you in for questioning, and maybe more than that." He had put both hands on Dirk's shoulders. "Go out during the day—act like you're running an errand—and no one will notice you. You're under the cover of daylight." I miss you, Papa.
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