Third Tourmaline: A Friend (part two)

Abstract city street scene with barricades


A Friend (part two)

“Only if I can help you with anything. We’re checking the neighborhood, that’s all. Have you got enough to eat?”

“Never mind food,” she said. “Can you hold something for me?” For a moment, she’d weighed this plea. She thought it wasn’t much to ask. She doubted Anton could do it . . . she would not be able to get his attention.

In that way, the G.R.A. corporal had taken an inventory—Mrs. Leonhardt knew he had—of her silver, her picture albums, the radio and batteries, the flour and sugar in their canisters, taped up against moths. But all along, while prying the nails for her, strong enough to hold the mirror with one hand, he’d been polite as at the front door, and hadn’t shown a sign of noticing.

“My son,” she told him, “has just come home. I can’t say what he plans to do.”

“I think I know Anton.” He’d surprised her with this.

Anton had not put the kettle on for his cocoa, or put his plate in the oven to warm. He stared at Corporal Herward, head lowered, squinting up; then he crossed his arms and thrust his hands in the opposite sleeves. Mrs. Leonhardt’s son now sat mute at the kitchen table, blank in the eyes, rubbing his handkerchief on a silver card tray. He’d absorbed himself with the task, as soon as Herward had set two or three things in front of him.

“I have chocolate bars.” She told her guest this; and also, “You can drink my coffee. There’s nothing wrong with it.”

“Thank you, ma’am. Yes,” Herward seated himself on a vinyl-cushioned stool that wheezed, expelling air . . . he chuckled at the noise, and spun towards Anton, speaking for his benefit, but to his mother. “My first assignment was down the coast. I grew up in Cadwilliam. So I’m native. You could tell that.” He gave her an agreeable bob of the head. He had called the capital of the new Central District by its colloquial new name.

“Yes,” he said again, and this time rested fingers on Anton’s forearm. “Vonnie and I are good friends. I saw her with you.”

“I don’t think Miss Swisshelm could be called Vonnie.”

“Oh, well. I call her that. Because of knowing her. She may have told you to call her something else.”

“Hmm. What is telling? I tell the truth. I give my name as Anton. I was given the name of Anton. I tell you I am Anton Leonhardt. She will not give me her name. She gives me a ring. She gives me over to the enemy. I am given paper to write a confession. But I am given no light . . . her green stone not meant for seeing . . . it may be aventurine or tsavorite. I was told I would know when I had got it right. Herok, unterceddhore.”

“Now, I don’t know what that means.” Mrs. Leonhardt had not heard Anton make such a speech, and her face flushed at his doing so before company. She poured coffee, and turned from the burner to the table, holding the cup on its saucer in one hand; on a salad plate in the other, the chocolate bar. This she had not unwrapped, because if the corporal shook his head, she would put it away again.



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