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Synopsis

“Cursed To Survive” by Rimma Rose

          Cursed to Survive is a historical novel set in Germany at the beginning of Hitler’s Reich subsequently leading to World War II and the Holocaust. We witness the often-horrific events through the eyes of Maximilian Count von Bittenburg, a German nobleman and the gatekeeper to a dark and secret past.

          The story begins when Rose Blackford Stern encounters the stunningly handsome Max at the grave of her late grandmother.  Max is enigmatic and the subject of Rose’s obsession from the moment they meet. He offers Rose the opportunity to learn of her grandmother's past, but only if she is willing to accept the consequences that will come along with that knowledge. Knowledge that will flip everything Rose thought she knew about this world on its head.

          Rose is a young, beautiful and successful New York City fashion consultant. She has everything, yet deep within her, she is unable to shake the emptiness that has consumed her since the death of her beloved grandmother, Aliza, three years prior.

          “Every time I think of my grandmother, I see her long graceful fingers masterfully playing the piano for hours, her eyes filled with sadness and overwhelming darkness.  I knew her profound sorrow was a result of her dark past. I was deeply haunted, because as close as we were, I was never able to learn of my grandmother’s past. I thought that perhaps I could help ease her pain, if I knew anything at all...”

          Max first meets Aliza when she is a teenage girl in pre-World War II Germany. Max comes from one of the oldest noble families of Europe. The attraction between Maximillian and Aliza is instant and overpowering, albeit impossible - a German aristocrat could never be with a Jewish commoner.  As Hitler’s Nazi movement gains momentum, their country is shattered and their deep mutual connection becomes deadly.

Max’s father, Count Frederick von Bittenburg, a high-ranking official in the Nazi Foreign Ministry, a personal friend of Hitler and Goring gets his son a position as the second-in-command at the labor camp. Max accepts his assignment with many

reservations, resenting the cruelty and inhumanity of the Hitler’s government and its supporters.

          “How could my nation do this? Hitler, Himmler, Hoss, and Heydrich were the monsters—that was clear and well established, but what about the other Germans? Those who pulled the triggers and actually physically carried out the plans? How could they do it? How could they be involved in such heartless and evil acts on such a massive scale? Where were our refinement and culture? Were we all, in our majority, a barbaric nation of blood-thirsty murderers? I felt nothing but embarrassment, disgust, and disappointment. Because of those people, I had to stand there, in the labor camp that had been created to torture people and work them to death, being ashamed for my country and nationality, for everything that I had been raised to be proud of and revere.”

          Many tragic events happen between Max’s job assignment and the actual beginning of his duties, but when he finally arrives to Hanzert labor camp, he finds that Aliza is a house servant there and subject to the desires and whims of a horrifically sadistic officer. He rescues her from the horrors of the camp and puts her on a journey to a new life in America at great cost to himself.

          Nearly seventy years later Max’s unusual gifts have brought him to New York, to Aliza’s granddaughter Rose, and perhaps to another chance at love that lasts for more than one lifetime.

Summary

          Rimma Rose has done countless hours of historical and social research about European aristocracy, politics and international affairs of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Her book takes a unique look inside the mind of a patriotic German nobleman with unusual gifts and immense opportunities for glory and domination. We witness the often horrific events of the Holocaust through his eyes, as he falls madly in love with a daughter of a Jewish doctor in the midst of the Nazi reign. Cursed to Survive is a historically accurate, easy-to-read and passionately en- gaging novel. It’s a ‘beauty and the beast’ story of the Holocaust filled with tragedy, real history and a sobering analysis of love, family, friendship, patriotism and other important concepts.

Enjoy the Excerpts from each Part of Cursed To Survive. Get a Taste of the Story…

INTRODUCTION

          Every month, I drive from New York City to Palenville, New York. I hate leaving the city and my job, but I always look forward to the trip. I spent most of my childhood in Palenville, enjoying the natural beauty of the Catskill Mountains, my grandmother’s house with its majestic garden, and the love and care I received there while growing up. Now I come to visit my grandmother’s grave, to stay for a few days at her house and appreciate the peace and tranquility that’s non-existent in the city. It’s very hard for a workaholic like me to stay away from my office and the job I love so very much. I am lucky because I do what I always wanted to do. I’m a fashion advisor to the editor in chief of Fab Couture magazine, the most fashion-forward and modern style publication in New York.  Lucky indeed—I just wish my grandmother were here to see my success.

          My grandmother was a one-of-a-kind woman. She was beautiful. She had the innate aristocratic touch in everything she did, the way she walked, carried a conversation, ate, and played the piano. I never had a chance to meet my grandfather. No one talked much about him in our small family. Not even my father spoke of his dad, and aside from one photo of a very handsome young man taken sometime in the late 1940s, I never knew or heard much about him. My father Mark Blackford Stern is a world-famous piano player, and my mother Analise Blackford is an accomplished modern abstractionist painter. They lead a very bohemian chic life, constantly traveling since my father performs concerts around the world. I don’t complain. They love me, of course. Every time they are away they send me post cards and letters from the different destinations. I have a huge collection of them from all over the world. They also lavish me with gifts and spend lots of time with me when they are back in the city. That happens rarely though. So, yes, I grew up with my grandmother in her beautiful home situated in the tiny town of Greene County, New York which had slightly over 1,000 people.

          My grandmother Aliza Stern was born to Jacob and Ruth Stern in 1923 in Frankfurt, Germany. My great- grandfather Jacob Stern was a well-known doctor whose professional advice and expertise were highly sought after by the simple people and the wealthy and powerful of those times. Aliza had five brothers and one younger sister; tragically, all of her siblings, including her parents and the rest of the family perished during World War II. Grandma was the only survivor and never spoke much about her family or those times—no matter how much I questioned her about the topic.

          My grandmother lived in Palenville for decades; I remember this same house with its antique furniture, paintings, Steinway grand piano, and heavy curtains on our massive windows from the time I can remember myself. In the house there is an old library with an arch in the middle and hundreds upon hundreds of books. My grandmother spent most of her time in the library or playing the piano. She would often sit for hours near the window in the reading room, staring at the mountains, looking so sad and detached – I always felt a burning desire to enter her thoughts and read them and see what she saw or remembered.

          Aliza was tall and thin with light blue eyes, always well-dressed and with impeccable manners. She never treated me as a child, never used cutesy words when addressing me, but I knew she loved me dearly. She would show her feelings with her every move, every word, every heartfelt gesture, and every gaze. The only thing that angered and frustrated me about my grandmother was the fact that she never shared or confided her past life with me. Every time I’d ask about the past and her childhood or early years, her eyes darkened, and she would come up with an excuse about something she needed to take care of. That of course, wasn’t true since we lived with Bianca, my nanny-housekeeper, Jim, the gardener- handyman, and Francis, the chef. Those people weren’t just the help; they were a huge part of our family; I had known them since I was a baby and they still lived at the house that belonged to me now (my grandmother had explicitly and very clearly stated in her will, the house could never be sold or owned by anyone else but me and my future children).

          I developed my love for fashion from Aliza, who always wore Chanel suits, beautiful vintage jewelry, and classic shoes. Fashion magazines and books were regularly delivered to the house, and my grandmother often told me about the legendary Gabriel Coco Chanel and the importance of meeting her in 1936 and another time in 1939, before her life as a princess at the top of the social ladder ended with the beginning of World War II. She spoke about Chanel more often than about herself or her early years.

          Every time I think of my grandmother and her rare and sad smile; her eyes filled with pain and darkness because of the times I knew nothing about, her graceful slender figure draped in tweed, her soft voice with a slight German accent, and her long fingers so masterfully touching the keys of the piano, I hurt, because I was never able to learn her story.

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          When Aliza was alive, I always questioned her on everything about her past, but she had consistently managed to change the topic or avoid my questions with meaningless stories I heard hundreds of times before. Why was she constantly sad? What happened to her? What happened to my grandfather? Why had he died so young and my grandmother never spoke of him? Was it because she had hurt too much or was it because she didn’t care? Who or what was she thinking about staring at the mountains, heartbroken and devastated? All those questions had been unanswered when she was alive and now with her gone there seemed to be no chance to find out anything at all.

          It seems I’ve always had the need to know everything about her. It wasn’t just pure curiosity--it was a lot more, and so much deeper. It was some kind of a force inside of me asking countless questions, demanding answers, agitating my mind to the point of obsession. My grandmother had taught me to always exercise self-control and proper demeanor, and that’s what I did. I was always calm, collected and reserved on the outside but inside everything was yelling, screaming and kicking. My curiosity was like the unsatisfied beast always demanding something more. Even so, I couldn’t satisfy its hunger because it appeared I had exhausted every way possible to find out or discover anything more than I already knew. Aliza meant the world to me, she raised me, she gave me as much love and attention as she possibly could, considering the obvious pain she lived in for as long as I could remember. However, not knowing of the past that left its grave mark on her whole existence, affected my own life in the ways I could neither control nor change. I almost felt as if I had an unidentified psychological disorder of something constantly bothering me keeping my mind frantic and stressed without any relief or cure. Why couldn’t I let go? Why couldn’t I accept the fact that she took her secrets to the grave? I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t healthy to be so obsessed with my grandmother's veiled past. And yet, it was Aliza; it was her and endless suffering in her eyes, even when she smiled, that made me unable to quit and incapable to learn…

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          Every time I visited Palenville, I would spend hours in Aliza’s dressing room. It smelled of Chanel No 5; it smelled of her. There I felt as close to her as I have at the cemetery. Those were the only two places where her presence felt real and nearly overwhelming. It was a huge room filled with everything Chanel and some Valentino and Oscar de la Renta. Her classic suits in every color and style, countless little black dresses, cardigans and blazers, hundreds of shoes, hats, gloves, bags and costume jewelry--everything remained carefully preserved since she had passed away. I knew every single thing in the place with my eyes closed.

          One evening I sat in the armchair in the middle of her closet looking at her vast collection of clothes when I saw it… an exquisite red velvet box on the bottom of one of her dressers directly under Aliza’s black evening gowns. I was not simply surprised, I was stunned. I had never ever seen that box before! Furthermore, it would be impossible not to notice such a beautiful object encrusted with gold and rubies standing out against the dark fabric of the gowns. It appeared to have been purposely placed there to be discovered.

          When I approached and opened the box, my hands trembling from excitement and anxiety, I found a key. It was a standard safe deposit box key. My heart was beating fast; I was terrified. I called Bianca, but she had no idea where the box came from. I nearly interrogated her, Jim and Francis about the box and the key, but they seemed genuinely clueless about it as well. Just the opposite, they tried to convince me, I brought the box in at some point and forgot about it. That was absurd. I would never forget such a beautiful item. I called my parents, who were in Lichtenstein at the time, and spoke to my father. He had absolutely no clue what I was talking about. As always, he sounded busy and absent-minded. Music made up his whole life, taking the center stage; even my mother was at the sidelines compared to Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninoff and other great composers - his main passion and love.

          After I didn’t receive an answer from anyone around me about the box and the key, I decided to call my grandmother’s old accountant. He told me that indeed Aliza had a safe deposit box in one of the banks in New York City and that bank, and the box were different from the ones where she kept her jewelry and important documents. He gave me the address of the bank and the next day I was back in the city, at the location, following the clerk as he led me into the room and carefully placed a metal box on the table before me.

          I stood alone staring at the container. I was nervous, my hands…my whole body was shaking. I forgot about the fact that I had no idea how the velvet chest had appeared in my grandmother’s closet, which seemed irrelevant at the time. I couldn’t guess or explain what I hoped to find inside the safe deposit box, but somehow I felt, something big and very important was about to happen. With my shaking hands, I turned the key inside the lock and gently, almost hesitantly opened the container. I was staring at the old black leather notebook. My grandmother’s diary? I slowly moved my fingers across the cold leather cover; I couldn’t contain my anxiety, and I couldn’t stop shivering. I lifted the notebook and at that very moment, a photograph fell out. It landed face down right at my feet. I took a deep breath and bent my knees to pick it up. On the opposite side of the photo, there was a date –December 12, 1947. I flipped the picture and froze. It was a photo of… me… her…me; the woman looking at me from the black-and-white photograph was my identical twin; she was my mirror reflection, only dressed in the style of the time. It was my grandmother, Aliza Stern. In 1947, she was twenty-four years old, a year younger than me. People always said we looked similar, but it wasn’t just a regular relational similarity, it was as if we were twins, it was terrifying how identical we looked. I kissed the photo, unsuccessfully trying to control myself and not to cry, even though the tears were falling down my cheeks for some time now.

          Then I opened the notebook. Many pages were missing, just torn away carefully along the edge. I was going through the blank pages, trying to understand the point of keeping the empty notebook in the safe deposit box, when I got to the second to last page…, I immediately recognized my grandmother’s handwriting:



          I didn’t know what or whom my grandmother was talking about but when I read that short and painful paragraph, I couldn’t breathe, I was crying, I could feel her pain and agony. Every word of those few sentences was speaking of a tragedy and suffering of unimaginable proportions. I could feel her pain… I could feel everything. I flipped the last page, and there I found the final entry:



She was begging for her own death. She was suffering, it was apparent. When was it? When did she make those entries? I knew all the names except for Ludwig. Those were the names of my grandmother’s parents and siblings who perished in concentration camp during the Second World War. But who was Ludwig? And whose name did she replace with the ellipsis? Who was that? Whom else had she lost?

          I was holding the notebook and the photograph close to my chest, standing alone in the vault of the bank, crying, trembling and trying to pull myself together. I remembered the pain in her eyes and the melancholic state she’d always been in, but those few sentences from the notebook screamed with so much raw tragedy… She wanted to die, she begged for death. How much agony did she feel to be so obsessed with dying in order to find a relief? What happened? What happened to her? Whom did she refer to when writing, “…and now he is gone as well”? Who was he? My grandfather or someone else? And the photograph... I never saw Aliza young, I had no idea we looked so identical. Could that be the reason I couldn’t find peace and kept on searching for anything that would tell me more about her past? Were we connected more than just through our genes? I wasn’t even her daughter, I was a mix of my parents’ DNA, and my father was a mix of the Sterns and the Blackfords. How could I end up looking so much like her?

          I stood in the room for some time before I finally gained my composure and could leave the bank. I was hoping to find some answers. When I saw the diary in the safe deposit box, I was initially excited about learning more of my grandmother’s life. I found no answers, just more questions. The mystery grew larger, scarier, and more bothersome; I’ve touched upon the surface of the unbearable pain and tragedy. I felt as if I had learnt of the horrific end of a story without knowing anything that led to that finale of pain and suffering. I tried to find out more, I questioned my parents again, and I asked my household staff. It was useless. They did not know…

Copyright © 2012 Rimma Shpigelman - All rights reserved.

          CHAPTER IX: The Reality
                         “A celebrated people lose dignity upon a closer view.”
                                                                                        Napoleon Bonaparte

          Since Paris was now under German control, I was allowed to visit the city—albeit with lots of security. I was excited to be in Paris, the city I loved very much. The entertainment was still amazingly extravagant, but I noticed how the locals looked at the German forces and the reactions they had to the German language. I had never seen so much hate, disdain, or anger in the eyes of almost every Parisian citizen. I felt so uncomfortable at times, instead of speaking German, I spoke French to avoid those looks. Being in Paris made me realize, Germany, and the Germans were now despised throughout Europe.

          I also saw for the first time, the French Jews wearing the yellow Star of David badges. During my visit, I was able to learn things that had been unknown and obviously hidden from me in Verbier. I learned of the real existence of concentration and extermination camps, especially the new one recently built in Auschwitz, Poland. I was in Paris in early December of 1940, a few months after the first strict anti-Jewish measures were imposed in France. That same year, the deportations of the German Jews to Poland and even France dramatically increased while the Krakow and Warsaw ghettoes containing approximately half a million Jews were completely sealed off from the rest of the world.

          I found out about everything completely unexpectedly while spending one evening at a posh restaurant and cabaret frequented by Nazi officials stationed in Paris. I was sitting alone in a private corner, drinking wine and listening to a young Frenchman playing piano. He was extraordinarily talented, and I enjoyed the music. The place was filled with German officers in uniform. Their wives or lovers were dressed in silk and diamonds, and the entire area was shrouded in clouds of cigarette smoke. I heard someone say my name from behind the barrier that separated my table from the main floor. It was Duke Alessandro Valerio Franzetti from Venice. He wasn’t my friend, rather an acquaintance. We’d met a number of times before at official events and a few times during my travels to Italy. He was very excited to see me and asked if he could join me for a drink.

          He first started by expressing his delight and pleasure about running into me. He congratulated me on the new union between our countries. I quietly cheered to that, trying to show minimum enthusiasm and complete unwillingness to talk about the Axis alliance and the progress of the war. I did not know much about the specifics and was too embarrassed to come off as ignorant. I also took into consideration, he knew who my father was and his very high position in the Nazi foreign ministry and the SS.

          Duke Franzetti regarded my hesitation as a sign of my not being a huge supporter of the war. After a few drinks, he started talking. Apparently, he was vehemently anti-Nazi and couldn’t forgive them for the loss of his girlfriend, Annabella, who was an Italian Jew who had disappeared along with her family the day after he realized he was irrevocably in love with her. The more he drank the further he talked about the persecutions, the deportations, the camps, and the ghettos.

          I was listening and trying to remain and look calm, but everything inside of me was burning with rage and shock. While I was in Verbier, enjoying the most luxurious and carefree life, my government was methodically committing atrocities completely unrelated to the war but directed toward one singular group of people, including women, children, and the elderly. Everything my father mentioned as a possibility the night before I was sent out to Switzerland had become a reality.

          Franzetti knew the most intricate details about everything. I wondered how he had found out about it all. He told me his British cousins kept him informed and also he paid for the information. He was appalled and visibly shaken when talking about the Nazi actions and their harsh, violent anti-Semitism. His stories made me think about the Sterns and Aliza. I hoped, I prayed in my mind, even though I was the least religious member of my family, the Sterns were far away from Europe and the mad chaos happening around us.  Alessandro told me he was helping the underground opposition movement with money and information. Even though the duke was speaking in Italian, he was too drunk to realize his tongue was so loose. He was sharing with me the most secretive of information, the type of which could destroy not only him but his entire family and all the causes and groups he supported.

          A few hours and a few cups of strong coffee later, he looked at me with begging eyes and asked if I were planning on telling my father or others about everything he’d shared with me. He told me that even drunk, he would not ordinarily talk so much but there was something about me that made him trust and believe with me he was safe to share his true feelings and sentiments. He wasn’t the first one who had completely opened up to me as if I were controlling their tongues and minds. I wasn’t, of course—at least I didn’t think I had that magical power. I gave him the word of an aristocrat and swore on my honor that I would never tell anyone. Alessandro was relieved, even though I suppose, he was too naïve to assume at that time, every aristocrat would honor the promise. I agreed with Alessandro in his anti-Nazi sentiments, and I would never break my word anyway, but many might have run to the local Nazis the same night, and Alessandro would have been detained and executed after being tortured for hours until he gave up everything and everyone he knew.

          That night I stayed alone. I was too overwhelmed and shocked by the new accidentally discovered information. In fact, I was so shocked that when my driver took me back to my hotel, I sat in the car for another hour just frozen with my thoughts all over the place. I didn’t stay at the Ritz this time. It was occupied by Nazi officials. With my money and my father’s position, I could have stayed there, but I didn’t want to see swastikas and uniforms everywhere. Instead, I decided to stay at the Hotel de Crillon, a beautiful ultra-luxury hotel with fantastic accommodations. I also appreciated when the front-desk people and servants found out who I was, they didn’t look at me with hate and disdain. I was polite, friendly, courteous, and very generous. Maybe that, along with my natural presence made them look at me as Count Maximilian and not as the son of the top Nazi official Frederick Count von Bittenburg.

          I lay in bed afraid to close my eyes because every time I did, I saw the images of women and children thrown out of their homes, beaten and abused, frozen without proper heat and clothing, elderly people too weak and old to defend themselves, humiliated and disrespected. I saw people dressed in prison uniforms or black clothing with yellow Star of David patches, starving and dying. I hadn’t seen any evidence of the deportations or the camps yet. It had been just few hours since I’d found out about the reality of the atrocities being implemented and carried out. In my mind, I could vividly see the pictures of human suffering. Which later, I would discover were exactly according to reality. I got up and started drinking.

          How could I know for sure? What if Alessandro lied or didn’t know the whole truth? What if he were mistaken or misinformed? What if he had purposely found me to dump the lies on in order to try to recruit me for his causes? But he never asked for anything from me… How could he know everything in such detail? From his British cousins? How did they know? What if it was a trap? Were they trying to gauge my reaction? Could he possibly be working for the Nazis? How could I know the truth? Whom could I ask? Was it even safe to try to find out the truth? I had so many questions and conflicting thoughts, I became paranoid and anxious. I started walking back and forth across the room in the dark. If anyone happened to be watching me at that second, they would have thought they were at an exclusive mental institution for very privileged patients.

          I couldn’t stop thinking about the Sterns. I needed to find out about their whereabouts. But how? The only credible and secure source would be Dr. Stern himself or maybe…Johnston. No, it was impossible. I couldn’t reach out to Johnston. He was an enemy now, well no, not him per se, but Britain… Damn Brits bombing Berlin! Could I ask my father? He was coming to Paris in a few days. My father knew my true feelings about the Nazis. He would never tell me the truth. He would get angry if I even asked. He would demand to be told where I learned such information. He would start suspecting me and keep me in Verbier for much longer.

          How else could I find out? Should I see Alessandro once more? No, it was much safer for him and me not to see each other again. If he was really involved in the anti-Nazi movement, he was playing a deadly dangerous game, and I couldn’t play along. They would destroy my family. We would lose everything, including our freedom and lives and for what? What else could I have done? I’d helped the Sterns. I’d tried. Damn it! Why couldn’t I just calm down and get over it all? Why did I care so much? The Jews should have organized and created a state and been prepared to defend themselves—what could I do alone? How could I help them? They were people. Innocent people. German citizens. It was not right. It was inhumane! Germany would forever be cursed and saturated with guilt and blood. God, please give me clarity, I begged. Please help me. I don’t know what do!

          I was on my knees praying for the first time ever, at least on my own. To me, God had never been a superior being, rather my friend and associate.

         
I jumped up and started walking back and forth again. I wasn’t myself. In modern terms, my state would be described as an anxiety attack. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t find the strength to calm down. Could I start networking and find other like-minded people besides Alessandro? He was too prominent -- us together—an Italian duke and a German count plotting against the Nazis—would endanger all the aristocratic families in every German-controlled and occupied state. Who else? I couldn’t just go around asking people about things like that. I was too known, too visible. My uncontrollable state of madness continued for another hour until I nearly collapsed. I dragged myself into bed and immediately passed out.

**********************************

          I woke up with incredible clarity of mind as if I’d slept under hypnosis for a few days.  Markus would say it was the miraculous power of the prayer, but whatever it was I felt reborn, clear, and resolute. I was wrong all along, and my father had been right, I was weak, naïve, and too sensitive.

          If I continued being openly anti-Nazi, he would keep me in Verbier, and while others like Duke Alessandro knew everything, were active, and were able to do something, I would be locked up in the mountains whereas life and history were passing by, leaving me in a total obscurity. If I wanted to do something worthy and meaningful…to make a difference…to have a purpose, I needed to change. If I am to fight them, I must become one of them.

         
I had been such a fool. I couldn’t believe it would take such a personal crisis for me to realize I was doing everything wrong. While my mind was brilliant and capable of processing tons of new information, I had no street smarts or any experience in navigating society as it was, not as I wanted it to be.

Copyright © 2012 Rimma Shpigelman - All rights reserved.

          Max had finished speaking, a long while before, and now he was seated in the same exact way he had for the duration of his story. His eyes were closed; he was so still, he looked more like a perfectly carved marble statue than a human being. I was speechless and shocked by what I’d heard. I had nothing to say but stared at him in silence. Max was completely unfazed by my intense glare, and no matter how much I tried I couldn’t look away. I didn’t know how much time had passed since I’d gotten there, and he’d started speaking. Patience wasn’t my strong suit, and yet I was so completely engulfed by what he had been saying that I couldn’t even think of anything else.

          Everything I’d heard was so terrifying and… beautiful, it almost didn’t seem real, and yet, I had no doubt that it was the truth. Now I could understand the sadness in her eyes, her solitude, and the hours she spent looking through the windows at the mountains. It would take days, weeks, maybe even months to process it all. I was dazed with his presence, his words, of the past I had known absolutely nothing about.

          I continued looking at him: still, frozen, perfect. My head was filled with thousands of questions I wanted to ask him. My heart was saturated with pain and frustration, and I was completely overwhelmed by everything I saw, heard, felt, and couldn’t understand. It was so strange to imagine my grandmother in the center of such a tragedy. She had not, at any time, been a warm, grandmotherly type, and still it was hard to think of her ever being so young, much less an object of love, desire, and devotion of the most beautiful man in the history of the world. At least, I had never seen anyone like him.

          The windows were covered by heavy curtains, and I didn’t know what time of the day or night it was. Most of the candles had been completely burnt out, and the only light in the room was coming from the fireplace and a few old dim lamps. He was so stunningly beautiful, every time I stopped thinking and concentrated on him anew, my heart began beating violently, and I had to take a deep breath just to get a hold of myself.

          Max...I was embarrassed to continue staring at him, nearly devouring him with my eyes. But how could I not? His face was so perfect, even the most talented sculptor or painter would find it difficult to recreate. Could God repeat this again and make someone like him? Or did he realize that our world, saturated with envy, greed, and cruelty couldn’t possibly handle someone so different, so noble, and so flawless? His jaw line was hard and squared. He had high cheekbones, a perfectly straight nose, beautiful eyes with long light brown eyelashes, and gorgeous manly lips: not too plump and not thin, just right. Everything, from his dark blonde hair to his long neck, wide shoulders, lean body that radiated strength and sex appeal, long fingers, and fantastic posture was…perfect. I couldn’t find any other word. I could attach this word to everything about him. I was losing my mind. I wasn’t myself. I didn’t do weakness or sensitivity; in terms of liking other people I was similar to Max before he met her…Aliza. How could I ever say or imagine Max and my grandmother? She was beautiful until the day she died, but I still couldn’t imagine the woman who gave birth to my father was Max’s love and obsession.

Copyright © 2012 Rimma Shpigelman - All rights reserved.

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