I’ve had a bunch of posts for the long-discontinued Sweet Saturday Samples bloghop sitting around in my drafts folder since 2012 and 2013, put together and scheduled well in advance. That hop seems to be on permanent hiatus, but I wanted to move them out already.
This post was originally scheduled for 31 August 2013, and comes from an older, unedited version of this WIP.
This week’s excerpt comes from a hiatused WIP called The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. The book follows a group of young Shoah survivors returning to the world of the living and trying to navigate their way through the early postliberation years. This particular scene takes place in Budapest in November 1945, shortly before nine of the characters are to be smuggled across the border, with another going on a train with their pet mouse and rabbit, before the Soviets completely take over.
While they were at a furrier’s on the famous Andrássy Út recently, the hopelessly smitten Artur secretly bought a fur coat for his crush Marie after he saw her admiring it. Marie’s main character trait is how sweet, innocent, and naïve she still is, even after everything she’s gone through. Just as she truly believes her entire family might still be alive, she really has no idea her secret admirer is so close to her. And Artur is afraid to tell her how he feels.
The next day, while Csilla was cutting up a blanket and starting to fashion it into a coat for herself, a knock sounded on the door. Half-fearing it was someone from the authorities who’d discovered their plan, or someone who’d found out there were fourteen people living in an apartment meant for only four at most, she tiptoed to the door and looked through the keyhole. A strange man was standing there with a box.
“I work for Szűcs Furs on Andrássy Út and was asked to deliver this package to a young woman living in this apartment. I didn’t want to send it through the mail for fear the Soviets might confiscate it for their own. Is there a woman named Maria in this house?”
“We have a Marie, if that’s who you’re looking for. Her surname is Sternglass.”
Marie came up to the deliveryman. “Yes, that’s my name on the package. Who is it from, and who would know that my middle name is Zénobie?”
“There’s a note inside the box that might explain it. Enjoy the gift.” He tipped his hat and went back down the stairs.
Marie carefully opened the box and saw a note on top, written in Hungarian. Her command of written Hungarian was even weaker than her command of the spoken language, so she called Eszter over to translate it.
“It says, ‘To the beautiful Marie from her secret admirer.’” Eszter gave Artur a meaningful look out of the corner of her eye. “I wonder who could have sent it, particularly since you don’t know anybody outside of our own little group.”
“This is so exciting! Maybe it’s a handsome young fellow who saw me in the street the other day, or any time since we’ve been here! I hope he’s tall, dark, and handsome. It would be so romantic if he were a sophisticated man of the world as well. Someone who’s my age would never be so romantic and thoughtful. I bet it’s an older man.”
“Perhaps you’re right,” Eszter said, giving Artur another furtive look.
Marie pulled away the tissue paper. “What a beautiful coat! I think I was admiring this coat yesterday more than any of the others! It stood out in the store because it was so exotic. None of the other furs had prints or exotic colors. Is it leopard?”
“The furrier told me it was ocelot when I admired it myself,” Mirjam said. “Looks like whoever is secretly admiring you wants you to keep warm as the winter begins.”
“Oh, if I only knew just who this suave mystery man is, I’d kiss and embrace him right now! I hope it really is someone tall, dark, handsome, and older, not some middle-aged ugly fat social reject.”
“That is a beautiful coat,” Aranka said. “You’ll surely stand out when we get to Italy.”
“Pierre will be so happy and surprised when he sees me again and sees I’ve become a young lady, someone old enough for furs and such a beautiful elegant coat. If my mother and sister are still alive, they’ll be so happy too, and impressed I caught the eye of this mystery man.”