Children of the Streets

Camille did not look up as she hurried down the disfigured alleyways of Paris, her coat wrapped around her like a shield. The twisted lamp-posts were silhouetted against the darkening sky like stooped, arthritic figures. No light came from them, as they were broken, but the streetlights were never on anyway. She could see her breath and her teeth chattered in the cold night air. The setting sun finally sunk below the horizon, leaving only a faint orange-pink glow behind. Camille quickened her step as her home was not far, but she did not want to risk being out in the open after dark. Shadowy figures lurked round corners, and a skinny fifteen-year-old girl was not match for even the most desperate of these creatures.

A back lane turned to the right suddenly and opened into a wide square of houses. Despite its spacious and airy appearance, the cluster of terraces were almost always full to the brim with activity. Not now though. The blackout curtains were pulled down and hushed voices came from behind the windows. Camille crossed the square to a honey coloured building with an oak door. Camille let herself in and started up the spiral stairs to her family's flat. She had started to take her coat off when she heard a CRASH! from the floor above. Her coat hung limply off her shoulders. Camille sprinted up the steps and was surprised to find the door ajar slightly. Two men, one blond and one dark, both wearing the same black suits flung it wide open and stepped out. They seemed to be carrying something in a sack. They pushed past Camille, knocking her into the wall. She looked back at them, confused. Then she realised, horror-struck, who the two smartly dressed men were. The Gestapo. Hitler's secret police had been worming their way into society ever since the Boche had arrived. The people of Paris feared them. The German soldiers feared them. When the Gestapo called, it was bad. Camille recovered and walked through the open door.

"Maman! Maman! What's happening? Did they find Papa? How could they have known?"

But her mother did not answer. The woman was cowering in a corner, tears streaking down her face. She was shaking and her cheek was bruised very badly. She spoke as Camille entered the living room, 

" They said...that one of the neighbours told them his whereabouts." Camille helped her mother into a chair. The woman continued, " I tried to lie, but they found him. Then they... they said they'd teach me a lesson by..." She mimed shooting a gun.

Camille did not know what to say. She quickly gathered her wits, however. Her mother was fragile at the best of times, and this news about her father seemed to have shaken her greatly.

"Look, Maman!" said Camille, "We need to get out. Out of the flat, out of Paris. Last thing I heard, boats are still going to England, but they're few and far between. Come on, quickly, before they come back!" By "they" she meant the Gestapo. They were basically thugs in a uniform and everybody knew it. Camille knew exactly why they had been ordered to shoot her father. He was one of the few who would not conform to act like a little German. It would be dangerous for Hitler's reputation if it got out that he could not control troublemakers. This was why, according to the Boche, her father had to die.

Camille's mother was reluctant to leave, however. "No, I can't do it! I won't! I've lived in this house all my married life. I'm not leaving just because that nasty piece of work Monsieur Hitler decides he wants more land than he is likely to get. I'm not!"

Meanwhile, Camille was nervously packing a trunk with clothes and other possessions. She did not have time for this. Both of them needed to get away as fast as possible. "Well, if you're not leaving to get revenge, then I will!"

As she left the flat, Camille caught a glimpse of a pool of ruby red blood on the floor. So this is what her father would be remembered as. A nobody, shot by Hitler's minions.

Camille kept to the shadows, as the Germans had enforced a curfew, and anyone found outside at this time would be shot. But she knew the streets of Paris like the back of her hand. The Germans, on the other hand, did not. She could outwit them in a blink of an eye. Then she heard a sound. It was a deep, leering laugh. Then a voice, " Hey, hey. What do we have here?" It was a man. By the smell of him, he was very drunk, and was eying her up in a disgusting manner. He put a hand on Camille's shoulder and pulled her towards him. She whispered "Take your dirty hands OFF me!" Camille could see his German uniform, although his French was almost impeccable. 

"Now, now, calm down. Although I do like my girls feisty..." He could not finish his sentence. Camille kicked the soldier hard in the shins and dug her fingernails into his palms. Then she ran. She ran until her lungs burned and pain shot up her chest. When she saw the soldier was gone, she slowed down. Camille started to wonder whether she should go back to the flat, and decided against it. However horrible they might have been, the streets of Paris were her home. She felt free here. Free of all the terror of the war. Free of her father's death and her mother's stubbornness. All of a sudden, Camille was gripped by a terrible sadness. However awkward her mother was, she was still her mother. Camille had an awful feeling that she would never see her family again. There was nothing she could do about it. There was something about this war that felt different to all the others, everyone was saying. All French families were bound to lose someone. It was just some families seemed to be unluckier than others. And with that dark thought, Camille turned a corner, and became a Parisian street child.

The End

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