Their boots leave haunting booms as they retreat down the hallway. They're ghouls, beating the floorboards with the vigor of monotonous mechanical clocks. They're stomping their destruction as a means to warn us.
We are not to disappear. Not like Adolf. And hopefully not like Martha.
The shock of their invasion passes in a long, exhausted breath when the room adjacent is presented with its clipped knocks. I breathe another long cold breath when they barge into the room in a flurry of hard clomps and gruff commands.
My heart is still deep in my lungs, blocking most of my air, but I manage to steady the fluttering in the next few minutes.
They had left a disaster in their wake from their midnight crawl and I'm not certain where I should start. Especially if these room checks become a daily routine.
Glancing at the scores ravaged and torn by their brutish hands, I concede that I'm just glad these soldiers haven't a clue to the music my original composes. I need somewhere to store my own compositions before they start inviting the professors to sift through after their carnage.
I'm lifting the crumpled score from under my socked feet, and ignoring the quivering in my fingers, when three soft knocks on my bedroom door rupture my chest again.
"Wolfe," a whisper begs, "please let me in, quick!"
I almost don't move from my fear but the desperate hitch in the voice draws me to the door, to the handle and to the familiar face I peek through from the open sliver.
I'm around her hips before I can fully open the door, and thankfully she has the mind to push us into my room before she shuts it safely behind her. I'm so relieved to see Marie, I'm not even aware of how tight I am grasping at her robe until she squeaks at the pinch at her ribs.
"Wolfe, you're going to have to ease your hug a bit," she pacifies, and I try but now my body is shaking and I can't speak.
"There, there," she whispers, and suddenly we are perched on my bed and I can feel her fingers tucking my long, ruffled hair behind my ear and away from my soaking face.
The tension of the disappearances and the unrealistic deadlines, along with this lock down, threatens to break me. It feels so long since I've been hugged. "I- I- I'm s- so tired," I hiccup, ashamed at my confession, but too exhausted to mind anymore.
She shushes me gently and pets my hair, combing it back in soothing strokes, squeezing me with her free arm. It's so warm here, wrapped in hushes and soft hands, and now I miss Martha, so I sob at the heartache.
I must have blubbered something, because Marie answers, "I know. We all miss her too. And maybe she really is in India. Or the Maldives.."
We sit in knowing silence, listening to the pounding of the next door down the hall. Not a sound passes between us, my gross sobs sealed behind stiff lips, until they shut their search behind my neighbor's door.
"Time for bed," Marie whispers, and I almost whimper as she moves away to wipe my face with the edge of her fleece robe. I can see her face now without the tears, but my addled brain can't place the expression on her face as she studies mine.
Marie seizes my thoughtful moment and pries herself so she can pull back the covers of my bed from under us. Reluctantly I follow her instructions and allow her to seam me into my pillow. I admit my defeat and finally relax, the toll from the stresses tugging me to long-awaited rest.
I can barely hear her movements mixed with the shuffling of papers. I've drifted away before she escapes my bedroom.
At morning wake up call, while blinking at the score crunched between my fist and the tidied floor, I recognize the expression Marie left me with the night before.
Clouded with indecision.