"Michael," my mother told me, and I was frightened. She never used my name when she didn't have to. She never said anything to me if she could help it, so afraid of being caught, and anyway I was determined that this wouldn't be the last time I saw her.
"What is it, Mother?" I asked her, clutching the bag with slender fingers. "What do you want?" Oh, she was so pale, with her face so gaunt and the skin drawn tight over the bones which even I could see, though I tried my best not to look. How thin she was! I wished I could give her my food, so that she would be strong and well again, but there was nothing for it. I could do nothing.
"You must promise me something." I shook my head.
"I will not promise you anything, unless it is that we will get out of here alive. I will not let this be the last time we are together."
Then she laughed, my beautiful mother. She could laugh, even in that sort of place! That was how lovely she was. I knew that no matter what happened I would always remember that one laugh. "I don't think you need to think about that now," she said. "There is no hope for us any more. Oh, Michael, you are so grown up. So brave. Why are you not a child any more?"
"Because I have grown up," I replied, stiffening my back. "I am not a child because these times are not kind to people who cannot fend for themselves. I could not let myself be dependent on you, mother, I had to grow up. Besides, I am sixteen now. That would not be a child by anybody's counting."
"Except by mine." She put her hand against my face, stroking my cheek gently as she used to when I was very small, and had had a nightmare. I wished she wouldn’t. We weren't even alone, but in a crowded truck with many other people. Some were my own age, many younger. They didn't know what was happening, but they were crying and crying. They knew this wasn't going to end well.
For a little while I said nothing, and then answered Mother with a soft word. "No." That was all I had to say for her to take her hand away from my face and look, oh, so sad. "I'm not a child," I finished. "You mustn't think of me as a child for you will worry about that."
"Well, I can think of you as it, and nothing you say will prevent me. I'm sorry, Michael, but you will always be my son." We passed the rest of the journey in silence. When we finally stopped, the jolting truck sliding to a halt, it was only because we had reached a huge gate that had to be opened from the inside. As we drove through it, I noticed that there were many people watching us. They didn't look pleased, more upset. I couldn't help but feel sorry for them. They had been here longer than us.
I was, as I had said, sixteen years old. I'd been hiding with my mother for a good month now, after my father and sisters were abducted on their way out to the shops. That was before everything got hot in Amsterdam, but now things were getting worse, and we had no hope. We knew the only thing to do was to go into hiding, so we did.