Joyanna is a eight-year old Jewish girl who lives in Aaras, France. With the coming of the Germans, Joyanna's father is killed and her mother and sister taken to a concentration camp. Joyanna, though, catches the eye of a local German Lieutenant who sees her as a means to get information he needs.So, Joyanna is "saved" from the fate of her people, although she often wonders if it would be better to die then to have to live under Erich's watchful eye.
Nadetta glanced uncertainly at Joyanna. “I hate to ask since I have no idea if you are supposed to be doing this, but with Geneva not here. . .” her voice trailed off. “Can you help with the gravy? Just be careful not to spill it. Heaven help us if you burn one of the soldiers,” she muttered.
Joyanna nodded, “I promise I’ll be careful.”
“Alright, you stay here then,” she put a stool next to the counter and Joyanna stepped up on it.
Nadetta handed her a small ladle, then turned and hurried toward the coffee pot.
“You just had to put her there, didn’t you?” Truda exclaimed.
Nadetta gave her a look, "It’s better then having her pour the coffee.”
The men began to come through the line and Joyanna carefully started ladling the gravy over the biscuits.
The soldiers began to chuckle, “Got yourself some new kitchen help, eh Nadetta?”
Nadetta glared at them, “That I do. At least for breakfast. Now leave her alone and mind your own business.”
“Hey, I bet it’s the girl Erich’s got himself,” a different soldier joked. “I heard he went out and adopted a daughter to get him out of the rest of his duties.”
There was a general laugh and Joyanna looked up, eyes sparkling with anger as she met the eyes of the man who had spoken. ‘“I bet you wouldn’t dare say that if Lieutenant Erich was here.”
“Woah, she’s got a stubborn streak,” the soldier winked at her.
It was all Joyanna could to to keep from flinging hot gravy all over the front of his neatly pressed uniform.
But what if it was an accident? The thought came to Joyanna suddenly. She braced herself on the counter with her left elbow and dipped the ladle into the hot gravy, then reached across the counter, just a little too far. The stool slipped on the wooden floor and the ladle flew from her hand, spilling the hot gravy down the officer's jacket.
Joyanna, fought to keep the smile off her face as the man sputtered and took a step back.
Their was a general laugh and the soldier next to him nudged him, “yeah, I’d say she’s got a stubborn streak a mile wide.”
The officer looked up at Joyanna, his eyes furious. He took a step towards her and grabbed her roughly by her shoulders, "Why you little--”
“That’s enough, Sergeant Steiner.” The commanding voice rang out across the breakfast room.
Joyanna knew that voice, she glanced across the room and in that split second her eyes met those of Lieutenant Erich. A sinking feeling washed over her as she realized he had been standing there in the shadows the entire time.
The man dropped Joyanna as though he had been burned. She landed on the stool and winced, rubbing the side of her head where she had hit it on the counter.
“Why, Lieutenant Erich. I-I didn’t see you there.”
Erich walked forward until he stood in front of the man, towering over him at least a good six inches, “I gathered as much. I will thank you to keep your words and your hands to yourself,” he reached around the Sergeant, picked up his plate and handed it to him. “Be sure and finish all your food and,” a brief smile crossed his eyes, “Be sure to clean your uniform.”
The breakfast room filled with laughter as Sergeant Steiner scowled and took his plate, hurrying to a table.
Joyanna glanced up at Erich. Their eyes met and Joyanna shrunk away from him. Oh, boy. I’m in trouble.
Erich Essler is a Lieutenant in the Third Reich.(Yes, the picture is of a Major, sorry!) He is strong a stubborn and what he says is what happens. He takes his responsibility seriously and has learned that cruelty can sometimes be the greatest motivation.
“Do you understand what I am trying to tell you, Joyanna?” Erich glanced back at her over his shoulder. Her face scrunched up as though she was thinking and he nearly smiled. Sure gotta watch myself with her.
“You’re telling me to lie and say that you’re my brother and if I tell anyone the truth, you will kill me,” Joyanna replied in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice.
“Yes, that is exactly right.”
“Whatever happened to 'the truth will set you free,'" she huffed in an undertone, apparently assuming he wouldn't hear her.
At that, Erich did smile. Yeah, she’s smart alright.The irony of the verse she quoted hit him again and he chuckled quietly. Now will come the hard part, trying to keep up with her once we get to London.
He set his face in its usual scowl and turned back towards her. “The truth will not set you free this time, Joyanna. Unless you want to be free to die. Then, yes, it will set you free.”
“So you’re telling me that I can't die right now?”
Yeah. . .and she's only seven--eight, He corrected himself. That’s another thing. She should probably know her birthday was last week. “Yes, Joyanna. That is what I’m saying.”
To his extreme annoyance, Joyanna grinned impishly up at him. “Not even you can keep me from dying. Only God can.”
Oh, and theologian too. Another thing to add to her list of accomplishments. But, what else should I expect? Her father was a Jewish rabbi. “True,” his lips twisted into a devious smile. “But then, what God would take a young child in the prime of life away from her lovely place on earth?”
“A God who wants her to be free.”
Freedom. We’re back at that subject again. Why out of all the random little girls in Arras did I have to choose her? Erich’s thoughts raced on while he said nothing. He tapped his riding whip on the desk in a rhythmic manner, a habit he’d long since stopped thinking twice about. Probably because if she were any less feisty, you would have killed her,a second voice reminded him. He smiled at the thought. He couldn’t be expected to have a whining, crybaby around all the time, could he? Of course not. Yet he still couldn’t understand what made Joyanna so different. He had done his killing of Jews in the few years he had been with the Reich. It was easy. Raise the gun, pull the trigger, and the world had one less Jew. So why was he so taken with Joyanna? She should be the same way. Yet for nearly a month, he had protected one of the Jews he had vowed to kill. She’ll be killed in the end, he reminded himself. Yes, Joyanna’s life was being preserved for the moment, but in the end, she would be just the same as everyone else.