Did she have to pay for her family’s bad deeds?
|Word count 1011
Feeling cheerful on that fine morning, Ruby sat in front of the open window, the morning sunshine pooled on the brightly coloured tablecloth. A striped blue and white teapot, full of her favourite English Breakfast tea was waiting for her. She munched contentedly on her toast and honey, listening to the morning chorus of native birds, flitting from tree to tree.
The television was on, but she only half listened to the usual traffic congestion announcements, and the early morning banter between the presenters. She was in the moment, being present, as her therapist had suggested. “Remember Ruby, now is all we have. Don’t think about what’s gone, or what may happen next, there is only the here and now.
She heard a rattle on the front door, “Who can this be?” She murmured, wrapping her silk Chinese robe tightly around her slim body. Cautiously she opened the door a little. “Yes, can I help you?” she asked the young man standing there, holding a small parcel.
“Mrs Ruby Carstairs?” Ruby nodded and signed for the package, “Thank you,” she replied, closing the door. She looked at the writing on the brown wrapping paper recognising it to be her mother’s. “What’s this?” she wondered, opening it as she walked back to the dining table.
She found a note inside which read: “I thought you’d be interested in reading this diary. It belonged to your grandfather. Please keep it safe.” Love Mum.
Ruby held the black book, the soft leather felt warm beneath her hand, she was wondering why her mother would send it to her. She flicked through the pages; each page filled with small neat handwriting, written in German. Maybe that was why her mother had sent it to her, knowing Ruby could read German and speak the language fluently, having lived in Germany for a couple of years.
Pouring herself a cup of tea, she sat down at the table and began to read the first page.
Several hours later, she looked up at the clock on the wall, so engrossed in her Grandfather's words, she’d lost track of the hours, it was nearly midday.
Ruby knew little of her Mother’s father, he’d died when she was a child. The only thing she knew was that he’d come to Australia after the Second World War, met her grandmother, and had several children, including Ruby’s mother.
He’d written the diary over seven years, starting in 1939 up to 1946. His words fascinated Ruby as he spoke of how his country, Hungary, became under Romanian rule. Arrested as a Hungarian Nationalist for treason against the State, the authorities had thrown him into prison, and tortured him mercilessly.
Afterwards in 1940 Bulgaria instituted an anti-Jewish legislation, her Grandfather became a government representative, and he was personally responsible for the deaths of thirty-four Jews. He had given the order for them to be taken deep into the mountains in the middle of winter, and to be abandoned there, to starve waist deep in snow. All this was documented by his own hand in the diary. It seemed he was proud of his actions, showing no remorse. This shocked Ruby, but somehow she couldn’t stop reading.
The day turned to night as she read the tiny writing; as if her Grandfather didn’t want to waste paper, he’d crammed as many words as possible onto the yellowed pages. He wrote that after the war ended he became a wanted man, charged with the deaths of the thirty-four souls he’d sent to a certain death. He planned to escape the clutches of the Nazi Hunters, who were intent on bringing them to justice for the genocide of a nation. Falsifying his identity and papers, he arrived in Australia as a refugee, with a new name. David Kodak.
Ruby closed the diary after reading the last entry. The resident owl, which lived in the oak tree outside her house, hooted. The sound surprised her, dragging her back to the present. Noticing it had become dark outside, she shivered, not simply with the cold air, but at the thought of being related to a murderer. She wondered if her mother knew what the diary contained. Ruby worried about the information she held in her hands. What should she do with it? Her mother needed to know, but what effect would it have on the family, knowing they had a monster for a father?
She tried to remember what sort of man he had been, but her memory of him was sketchy. He’d died an old man, thinking he’d got away with mass murder. Was it up to Ruby to expose him? Sitting on her bed, still in her dressing gown, her thoughts were with the people whom her grandfather had condemned to such a terrible end. Innocent men, women and children, unaware they were being led to their death.
Anger filled her, she paced her bedroom, her hand on her heart, trying to calm herself. How she wished there was something that could change the past, make recompense somehow.
There was a thumping sound outside her bedroom door. She wasn’t expecting her husband home tonight; he was away on business. Yet there it was again. Frozen and afraid to move, Ruby heard even more sounds, shuffling of feet, as if there was a gathering of people outside the door. “Hello?”
Hearing only a whispering, slithering sound, she tried to sound brave. “I know you’re there, what do you want?” She cried out. No reply.
“This is ridiculous,” she muttered. Gathering her senses, she got up from her bed and opened the door.
Stepping back quickly, she saw there was no one there, but could feel a sudden, immense wave of pressure pushing her backwards into her room. The air filled with an icy-cold mist which took on a human shape, which cloaked her body. Ruby felt overtaken by an energy she’d never experienced. She fell backwards on the bed, her silk robe slid on to the floor. Giving a silent scream, she felt the souls of thirty-four spirits invade her body. Ruby realised as she departed this earth, her therapist had been mistaken when he spoke of there only being the here and now. There is retribution, someone has to pay, no matter how long it takes.