Her Hungry Heart

Her Hungry Heart by Roberta Latow

Book: Her Hungry Heart by Roberta Latow Read Free Book Online
Authors: Roberta Latow
trying to beat its way into the warmth and safety of the flat. He turned to look at her and tell her, ‘It’s temporary. Until the war is over and I find my child, till my country is free and my land and houses are returned to me.
    ‘There are not thousands nor hundreds of thousands but millions, Barbara, millions of people more hurt than me. Millions who have suffered unspeakably, and perished in this war. Innocent Jews, gypsies, the Poles, the Czechs, Hungarians. I feel no guilt about those who have been hit harder than me. My shame is for having sold my child’s identity to preserve her life. That’s my pain, my anguish.
    ‘I live with that pain every day, every waking minute of my life. It will always be there until this war is over and I can return here to America to reclaim my daughter. I wanted her to grow up with a childhood she could bear to remember, and not have to invent one, as the hordes of concentration camp children, ghetto children, the hungry and lost orphans roaming the streets, begging for bread, rags for shoes, will have to.
    ‘I ease my conscience about my child because I know she is safe here in America with a mother who adopted her, a woman who was her wet-nurse. She loves her as her own child. And the girl has a tutor who loves her no less. These women are devoted to her and care for her. She lives secure in their love and the comfort I have provided for them all until my return. And yet, with all that, she is a victim of war, a displaced person. My hope, my dream, is that she is too young and too innocent and happy to know it.
    ‘I try not to think about her. But, when I do, it is in alovely house with a garden where she has not a worry in the world. Where no one can reach her, hurt her, or use her to get to me. It assuages my guilt for the danger I put them all through before I took action to ensure their safety, for abandoning her.
    ‘Czechoslovakia, my country, has a government in exile in London. I flew to Washington on a mission for them. It was to be London, Washington, London. I am only in New York because weather delayed my flight back to London. A romantic figure, you see? A ruthless bastard, more like! These days with you have been more than perfect, more than any man has a right to expect. We’ve been selfish for each other, and reaped fantastic pleasure from our selfishness. Maybe even sparks of love. But love is not my game. Survival is what I’m playing for. I can only hope you understand, and that you will forgive me.’
    Barbara was stunned by all that Count Karel Stefanik had chosen to reveal about himself. She had not expected it. Nor had she expected that he would fall in love with her. In spite of his words, the coolness with which he had spoken, she sensed that he did love her, no matter that he didn’t want to. She had had other men fall in love with her. The signs were there now: she read them clearly.
    ‘Forgive you for what, Karel?’
    ‘For walking out on you. No. That’s not quite right. For walking out on love. That’s more the truth of it.’
    He pulled her up from the chair and held her in his arms. Then he sat down again with her on his lap. They kissed. She stroked his hair, and he kissed her hands. There was nothing to forgive, and therefore nothing to say about his departure. Nor about understanding that they would never meet again.
    The intercom buzzed. They let it carry its irritating tune for some moments while they sat silent looking into each other’s eyes.

Chapter 6
    Mimi’s change of fortune began with the kindness of the fruit pedlar, Joe Pauley. But real change began in her life on that autumn afternoon in 1943 when she and the Queen met on the steps of the chapel. When she felt secure enough to cut through the tissue of lies she had been living with since she had been parted from her father, and mentioned that she too had a chapel in the house where she lived in Prague. Always looking for diversions to keep the children amused, the Queen

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