Liesl lay on her stomach, eyes open. In the dark she couldn't see the wardrobe that still hung some of Susi's dresses, or the dresser that held Susi's jewels, or the mirror above the vanity that had once reflected back a blond woman with round cheeks. But she felt the objects watching her with their sharp corners, their creaks. And beyond them she felt the great open space around her, space enough for two beds, a man and wife, and a baby, too. How different this room seemed compared to her tiny alcove at the spa, where there was nowhere to sit but one chair and the narrow cot, and whenever her best friend Uta came, Uta took the cot, messing up Liesl's neat coverlet while she chatted and smoked. That room had reeked of girlhood, of their long, gossipy talks, of ash, of the herbs Liesl gathered and made into fragrant sachets, of wool stockings hung up to dry. She wished Uta would write. But Uta never wrote letters, except once, to announce she'd made it to Berlin and liked her job at the private officers' club.
Liesl curled her fingers in her blanket and pulled it tight over her shoulders, around her chin, tighter and tighter, the way she'd done as a girl when she was scared of the dark. Miss me, she thought, first to Frank, and then to her oldest friend, and then to the dim, loving face that had become her memory of her mother. She pulled again until the wool strained over her back and she couldn't move for holding herself.
Excerpted from Motherland by Maria Hummel. Copyright © 2014 by Maria Hummel. Excerpted by permission of Counterpoint Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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