Chapter 5: The Military Can't Break Me!
It was July... I had stayed out of Beilschmidt's way for the past month and just stayed slightly disobedient. I kept rubbing in his face how nothing he did had an impact on my persona. I started to feel more and more guilty though... The stinging feeling in my chest grew worse every time I crossed him and seeing his frustrated facial expression only made it worse.
After the afternoon practice I was heading towards the dining hall with the rest of the team. They were all chatting happily, but I for one stayed quiet. I started to fall behind and stopped for a moment to get some peace. Then I heard voices... Frustrated, hissing voices!
Even though I knew it was none of my business I couldn't help being curious. If I was caught it would only get me more trouble, and that was good, right?
I went in the direction of the sound and stopped by General Benson's office. I could hear his deep voice's growl through the door and the annoyance of someone else's. It sounded familiar though...
At first I couldn't hear anything but as time passed the voices in there got louder and more frustrated. I started to be able to hear what they were saying.
"I'm telling you Beilschmidt: You break this girl now! Her father is expecting results and so far we've got nothing. The parents are coming here tomorrow night for the open house event and they want to see some change. You got a month and if I don't see any change you can kiss your status here goodbye!"
I sunk a lump and felt how guilt spread in my heart. I had brought this situation upon him.
"General Benson, I don't knov vhat zu do vith her, it is as if she does it all on purpose, as if she vants zu mess up!" He insisted.
Well... he got that right!
"I don't care! Set this girl straight. You're the toughest person here so you make it happen!"
"Yes General" He said emotionless.
As he came out of the office he saw me but didn't say a word to me, he just stared for a moment before he turned and left me there. Oh, the guilt... It was eating me from the inside and out!
The night my parents arrived I was feeling anxious. I didn't want to see them and the General had obviously told them about my lacking result. It was only a matter of counting the minutes before hell would break loose.
As they arrived they were welcomed by Benson who shook Harold's hand with a cheerful face and guided them to me. Despite the heat I had decided to wear a long sleeved shirt and some jeans. I knew what was to come and the only way to cover up the damage was this way. They smiled and waved at me, acting as if everything was alright around the other teenagers and their parents.
"How are you sweetheart?" Karen asked almost believable.
"Great" I said, struggling not to be rude.
"Are you enjoying your stay?" Harold asked. Did I hear sarcasm in his voice? Oh yes!
The General smiled at my father "Dinner is served in an hour, I bet you have a lot of catching up to do. I'll leave you to it. Maybe you should show your parents around Katja" He suggested.
He had just doomed me... As soon as we left the group of people here they'd be showing their true colours and I would be reminded of the pain that would never leave my life.
I hesitated to leave but it would seem weird if I was unwilling to so with a heavy sigh I lead the way away from the group of happily reunited families.
I walked in total silence and so did they. It was killing me... I was scared... I could feel a familiar feeling rise in my body: My hands started to sweat and shake, my head was pounding and I struggled to breath steadily. I prayed they'd go gentle on me...
By the time we got far enough away Harold grabbed my shirt and smacked me up against the wall, knocking the air out of my lounges, leaning against me with everything he got.
"Why are you not taking this seriously?" He growled.
I whimpered and felt scared "I am!" I insisted.
"You are not! We know you're not improving, we know you're just thinking this is a holiday, but it is not" He let go and slapped me across me face so fell to the ground.
I held my hand on my cheek, completely unaware that I had a watcher at this moment. All I could focus on was how my ears were ringing and I was feeling dizzy.
"Get up!" Harold hissed and pulled me up by grabbing my hair "You're going to make progress now, do you hear me?" He shook me roughly, not letting go.
"Aaargh, yes" I cried.
"And you will be a good girl when you get home, right?" He shook me again.
"Yes, yes, I will, I promise" I whimpered.
He roughly threw me to the floor "Good" Then he and Karen turned and left me there.
I didn't get up, I didn't move. I just wanted to stay here, cry and never be found. My elbow was hurting, I had landed on it when I fell and I knew for sure how ugly it was going to look under the shirt. I just wanted to die... Just lie there and die!
It wasn't long before I heard footsteps though. I feared it was Harold coming back but as I opened my eyes I saw a pair of military boots in front of me and soon after I felt a calming hand stroking my hair away from my face. I looked up from my fetal position to see my superior squatting in front of me.
"I'm so sorry" He whispered.
I whipped away the tears but quickly found out it was hopeless. They just kept coming!
"I'm sorry too" I sniffled.
"Vhy vould you be sorry?" He said with a shaking head.
"Because if you don't break me within a month they'll demote you" I whispered.
He sat down beside me and helped me up so I sat beside him "It's not your fault"
"Yes it is! I'm doing this on purpose, don't you see?"
He didn't answer, assuming there was more.
"Another day here is another day away from the hellhole I'm supposed to call home" I said sadly in a silent voice.
"I don't blame you for that" He whispered.
"But you should be! Besides, your task is pointless. You can't break me!"
He looked empathetically at me but kept quiet.
"You can't break me because I'm already broken!" I said and started to cry harder.
I was about to hide my face in my hands but felt how I was pulled in to a big, protective hug.
He stroke my hair and back "Es ist going zu be okay"
"Yeah, it is. I'm going to make it right. I'll start doing as I'm told, I promise, Sir"
"Please don't do zhis für mich" He pulled me back and smiled at me "And please... Call me Ludwig"
I was being at my best behaviour after the "party" with my parents. I had kept my distance, tried to stay out of their way and after that I did everything I was told. I was allowed to go home after three weeks!
I packed my stuff while Carly was sitting on her bed, watching me and swinging her legs back and forth.
"You're going to kick me in the face if you keep doing that" I said with a laugh.
"Either that or the stench of my feet will wipe you out" She said much too joyfully.
"Oh gosh, here it comes!" I said, holding my fingers over my nose and pretending to faint.
"Once again, the stench of my mighty feet wins!" Carly said loudly, standing up on her bed to make a pose of victory.
"You goof, don't fall and hit your head" I said as I got up again "Oh wait... as a matter of fact, maybe you should" I said and placed my last stuff in my suitcase.
She giggled and got down again "You've got my phone number and address right?"
I nodded with a smile "Yes and you've got mine in case I lose it"
We both knew that I wouldn't lose it; it would more likely be taken from me!
"You know I do" She said with a grin but suddenly looked to the door "You've got company" She jumped down from the bed and left quickly.
I look towards the door. Ludwig was looking at me. He held something in his hands and slowly approached me. I decided to meet him half way.
"Officer" I greeted with a sad smile.
He smiled a sad smile too and looked down a few seconds before his icy blue eyes locked on mine.
"I knov vhat you are going back zu und I vish I didn't have zu send you zhere, aber I vant you zu knov zhat no matter vhat you have a freund in me, und you can turn zu me with anyzhing. Anyzhing at all" He said and gave me a little envelope.
"What is this?" I asked curiously and was about to open it, but he placed his hands on mine to stop me.
"Don't open zhis before tonight vhen you are alone, okay?"
I felt how him stopping me from opening the letter also had brought him a step closer. My heart was pounding in my chest and I felt an urge to have his arms around me just one last time. I hesitated at first but then took a chance and threw my arms around him, nuzzling my face into his chest. He didn't return the embrace at first and held his breath; I guess he was too shocked over my action. Then he slowly started to breathe again and held me tight.
When I finally pulled back he cupped my chin with his right hand and looked at me before placing a soothing, soft and sweet kiss on my lips. I felt like crying as he did. It was filled with tenderness and love. A feeling I had never got to feel for real in my life.
After a brief moment it was over though, as if it never was, but the kiss burned on my lips as proof even though he was now just looking at me. I placed a hand on his cheek with a smile.
"Promise I vill see you again" He whispered.
I sighed "I really hope you will"
He kissed me a last time and held me tight afterwards. This was probably the last time I'd see the handsome Ludwig and we both knew.
He unwillingly released me and I slowly left the room, looking at him with tearful eyes and a heart pounding and aching more with every step I took away from him. My parents were impatiently waiting by their car and I hurried over to put my suitcase in the trunk. As I was about to hop in to the backseat I heard someone calling my name though.
"Katjaaaa!" Carly came running to me with open eyes.
I grinned widely. That girl was so crazy I had no clue what I should do with her, but I knew I'd love and cherish her forever because she was the only true friend I had ever had. I ran to embrace her and lifted her slightly from the ground when, making her squeal a little.
"I'm going to miss you so much!" I said and put her back down.
"I know. I'm awesome. I'm going to miss the lame you too" She said teasingly.
I rolled my eyes with a smile "I'll come find you as soon as I can, I promise"
"If I don't come find you first. I might be a stalker you know"
"Carly, you ARE a stalker. You're everything a person can be and more and that what makes you so wonderfully crazy!"
She looked thoughtfully out in the air, nodding a little "Crazy... yeeeaaaah!" Then she turned her eyes on me "Yep, you're totally right"
I shook my head and gave her hand a squeeze "I best go. Give Ludwig hell for me, okay?"
She nodded with a wink.
As I opened the car door I took on last look at the place as I was leaving. I was going to miss this place, despite all the blood, sweat and tears, and most of all I'd miss my friend and the blonde I had just found myself being more fond of than I knew.
Ludwig looked at me from the main building and I slowly raised my hand, waving at him, as we drove away. He nodded once, keeping his hands in his pockets, then turned and went back inside. I sat down again, leaving my right hand at my jeans' pocket: The letter was still there, burning to get out so I could read it...