“They took the part of me that knows what forgiveness is. The only thing I can do is reject the violence they used to do it.”

Bones of Spring – Chapter 72 – Excerpt

It wasn’t until well after midnight that she was woken by the door opening, by the unsteady shuffling of feet. She blinked in the darkness, saw Fisher collapse into one of the chairs, his undershirt stained, his hair lank and his whole aspect exhausted and intoxicated. Kat stared at him, ready to be angry, ready to demand he confess which ways he had allowed himself to be used, but he just looked back at her helplessly. She sighed, choking back her words, her frustration. He didn’t need to be told that he’d behaved badly today. She knew he was angry with himself.

“Did you find what you needed, at least?” she asked, sitting up on the corner of the bed.

He shook his head. “There’s no cure for this. There’s no release from a hope for a better past except forgiveness, and I can’t, Kat. They took the part of me that knows what forgiveness is. The only thing I can do is reject the violence they used to do it. Do you understand?”

“That wasn’t the first time you’d been to Salzwedel. You visited that camp before.”

“I went to every camp I could find,” he said bitterly. “I looked for every record, spoke to every townsperson who would talk to me. So many of them lied to my face, but many of them wanted to help, too.”

“You never found any trace?”

“Worse,” he said, taking a deep, shuddering breath. “Everywhere I went, I put the question to the people there, and everywhere I went, I had word of Anna Fischer. Anna Fischer, yes, I know her – she was shot for trying to escape. Anna Fischer, she died of typhoid. She died of diphtheria, of dysentery, of cholera, of every filthy disease known to man. I learned the fate of a hundred Anna Fischers. My mother died in a hundred camps, in a hundred different ways, her body burnt, buried or left to dissolve in polluted water. Frau Haber probably knew her too.”

Kat wanted so badly to touch him. To put her arms around him, but something about the way held himself in that chair precluded human contact. His shoulders were sharp with tension, his jaw tight. For a man who was so very apt to be loved, it was a difficult for her to understand how she could help. Harder to accept that she couldn’t. The best she could do was approach his chair, and kneel down next to it, placing herself within arms’ reach, if he should want to reach for her.

“You know what it says over Auschwitz,” he said dully, finally meeting her eyes. 

“Arbeit Macht Frei.” 

“Not from the inside, it doesn’t,” he said with a bitter smile. “Once you’re inside, they’re just backwards letters. They mean nothing, and that is the meaning. Nothingness is what it reduced us to. There are days when that absence tortures me, and I abase myself trying to resist it.”

Now he reached for her, fingertips seeking in the dark, finding her cheek. Forming around her face. She rose, ignoring the pain in her foot as she steadied herself on the arm of the chair. Seeing this, he grimaced, pulling her into his lap. His forehead was feverish against hers. She wondered what he’d taken, how much, but she didn’t ask. She stroked his soft curls, felt the steadfast strength of his arms. He seemed himself enough that she shouldn’t worry too much, but it nagged at her. 

“I wish I could help,” she said. “But it’s unfair to say that to you.”

He looked up at her. “Why?”

“How can I ask you to tell me how? How can I ask you to forgive me for my helplessness? It isn’t for you to make me feel better.” 

“Kat, just breathing the same air as you helps me,” he said, pressing his face into her neck. “I know I can be—“


“I was going to say incorrigible.”

“Irritating, frustrating… and a brat, also.”

He laughed softly. “Don’t go easy on me, baby.”

“A lush, a slut, an inebriate and you have terrible taste in films.”

He looked at her, lips parted as though he’d been the victim of gross offence. “I do not have terrible taste in films. I do not have terrible taste in anything.”

“Don’t make me watch another musical, Fisher.”

“Learn to stop hating fun, Mrs. Fisher.”

“Never,” she kissed his forehead, slipping out of his grasp. “Come on, you’re exhausted.”

Fisher tried to stand up, but he had to catch himself on the chair’s arm. “God, I’m dizzy.”

She helped him to the bed, then went to draw a glass of water for him. She waited until he was snoring, which didn’t take very long. Then she went to the little desk, took some of the hotel stationary, and penned a brief note. 

I’ll be back by afternoon.