Excerpt of Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
(Page 3 of 4)
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Wheres Ellen? Mrs. Rosen had a frightened look.
Ellens in your apartment. She didnt realize you were here,
Annemarie explained. Dont worry. It wasnt anything. It was the two soldiers who stand on Osterbrogadeyouve seen them; you know the tall one with the long neck, the one who looks like a silly giraffe? She told her mother and Mrs. Rosen of the incident, trying to make it sound humorous and unimportant. But their uneasy looks didnt change.
I slapped his hand and shouted at him, Kirsti announced importantly.
No, she didnt, Mama, Annemarie reassured her mother. Shes exaggerating, as she always does.
Mrs. Johansen moved to the window and looked down to the street below. The Copenhagen neighborhood was quiet; it looked the same as always: people coming and going from the shops, children at play, the soldiers on the corner.
She spoke in a low voice to Ellens mother. They must be edgy because of the latest Resistance incidents. Did you read in De Frie Danske about the bombings in Hillerod and Norrebro?
Although she pretended to be absorbed in unpacking her schoolbooks, Annemarie listened, and she knew what her mother was referring to. De Frie DanskeThe Free Danes__ was an illegal newspaper; Peter Neilson brought it to them occasionally, carefully folded and hidden among ordinary books and papers, and Mama always burned it after she and Papa had read it. But Annemarie heard mama and Papa talk, sometimes at night, about the news they received that way: news of sabotage against the Nazis, bombs hidden and exploded in the factories that produced war materials, and industrial railroad lines damaged so that goods couldnt be transported.
And she knew what Resistance meant. Papa had explained, when she overheard the word and asked. The Resistance fighters where Danish peopleno one knew who, because they were very secretwho were determined to bring harm to the Nazis however they could. They damaged the German trucks and cars, and bombed their factories. They were very brave. Sometimes they were caught and killed.
I must go and speak to Ellen. Mrs. Rosen said, moving toward the door. you girls walk a different way to school. Promise me, Annemarie. And Ellen will promise, too.
We will, Mrs. Rosen. But what does it matter? There are German soldiers on every corner.
They will remember your faces, Mrs. Rosen said, turning in the doorway to the hall. It is important to be one of the crowd, always. Be one of many. Be sure that they never have reason to remember your face. She diappeared into the hall and closed the door behind her.
Hell remember my face, Mama, Kirsti announced happily, because he said I look like his little girl. He said I was pretty.
If he has such a pretty little, why doesnt he go back to her like a good father? Mrs. Johansen murmured, stroking Kirstis cheek. Why doesnt he go back to his own country?
Mama, is there anything to eat? Annemarie asked, hoping to take her mothers mind away from the soldiers.
Take some bread. And give a piece to your sister.
With butter? Kirsti asked hopefully.
No butter, her mother replied. You know that.
Kirsti sighed as Annemarie went to the breadbox in the kitchen. I wish I could have a cupcake, she said. A big yellow cupcake, with pink frosting.
Her mother laughed. For a little girl, you have a long memory, she told Kirsti. There hasnt been any butter, or sugar for cupcakes, for a long time. A year, at least.
Excerpted from Number the Stars by Lois Lowry Copyright © 1998 by Lois Lowry. Excerpted by permission of Laurel Leaf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.