One Boy's War

      Roman Bejak kneeled on the leather car seat and gazed back through the small rectangular rear window. The stone and brick mansion where he had spent all of his six years was receding slowly as the car made its steady way down the long, oak-shaded driveway. He could still make out the Baroness and Eva, the maid, where they stood at the foot of the steps. He waved furiously, but they were as immobile as the granite behind them.

       It was a great and glorious adventure, thought Roman. Here they were, he and his mother, being driven in the Baron's shiny Daimler. To the big city. To Warszawa.

       Beside him, his mother hadn't looked back once. She didn't seem to be sharing the boy's excitement. Instead, she seemed to have shrunk in the past few days, and her pretty face seemed puckered with that cloudy sadness that adults often carry.

      "Does the Baron's car go very, very fast, Mother?" he asked.

      "Yes, Roman, but perhaps not today."

       "Are we riding in it because the Baron can't anymore?"

      His mother turned to him, and her dark eyes misted. "Yes, Roman. Exactly right. Many things will be changed now."

      Only days before, the Baron had died in a hunting accident. When his mother had told him as she tucked him into bed in their small room, her lips had trembled like his did when he was trying not to cry. Roman imagined the tall, powerful Baron must have cornered two or three bears, and died battling their sharp claws and huge teeth.

      The next day, though, Eva said that he had simply fallen off his horse and broken his neck. She had kissed the top of his head then.

      "He loved you," she had whispered. Roman found that strange, because the Baron had rarely spoken to him. His mother explained that the nobility never spoke much to the help, and only to advise them on what needed to be done.

       Roman found that strange, too, because he knew the Baron spoke often to his mother. Sometimes, when Roman was supposed to be asleep, he even heard him at their door, calling his mother's name in a very low voice.

     "Anna," he'd say, and knock very softly.

     Maybe the governess wasn't part of the help, Roman decided, although that would be strange, too, since the Baroness never spoke to his mother.

    Until yesterday. They had spoken for a very long time in the Baron's office.

The End

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