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The Great Escape: Chapter 2

Yehuda Bromberg

“Ah, Agnes, what a pleasant surprise!” A dark-skinned woman wearing many shawls and beads approached the elegant guest with excitement. “What a pleasure it is to see you again”

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

I

A

few years later …

A white carriage pulled by two perfectly groomed horses rattled through a road lined with different shops. Outside a small, dilapidated tailor shop, the immaculately dressed driver leading the carriage ordered the horses to a halt. He was a very tall man with broad shoulders and a toughened look about him. Streaks of grey mixed with the black hair that he kept tied into a ponytail: the trademark look of the servant and bodyguard, Hanz.

“We are here.”

The servant alighted from the carriage and opened the door to the compartment to allow a white-haired, elderly woman to step out. Time had not been kind to Agnes Richter. She still wore the fanciest of clothing, but the deep wrinkles in her face and her colorless hair gave testimony to a life filled with dissatisfaction.

“Disgusting store, isn’t it, Hanz?”

“Yes, but you love the craftsmanship of the gypsy’s weaving, so here we are.”

“If anyone else could create what they could, I would go there! Alas, it’s our misfortune that we have to frequent such nasty, poor, and smelly stores every now and then.”

“Should I stay behind with the carriage?”

“No, I don’t want those horrid gypsy girls around me with no bodyguard to protect me. Come inside.”

*******

The door to the tiny shop opened up with a loud creak and Agnes and Hanz stepped inside. Hanz had to bend his head so as not to hit the top of the door frame. Agnes wrinkled her small, upturned nose at the smell of mothballs and mold that hung in the air.

“Ah, Agnes, what a pleasant surprise!” A dark-skinned woman wearing many shawls and beads approached the elegant guest with excitement. “What a pleasure it is to see you again. What do you need today? Another one of our coats? Another set of gloves for your husband? Or a replacement for the decorative rugs we wove for you two years ago?”

“None of those things.” Agnes pursed her lips. “I need something a little more... specific.”

“Whatever it is, I’m sure we can accommodate.”

Agnes bent down as close as she was willing to get to the gypsy seamstress and whispered something.

“Oh!” The gypsy’s eyes widened in surprise. “Congratulations!”

“Yes, well, can you have it ready before the end of the week?”

“That’s a bit too soon for me.”

Hanz stepped into view, towering over the short lady. His cold eyes narrowed at her and a vein jumped in his clenched, square jaw.

“Um, on second thought I think that’s a very realistic timetable. I will give the task to my helper. She is a very talented seamstress as well.”

“I don’t care who does it, just do it.”

“Your wish is my command.”

**********************

When the door to the shop closed and Agnes’s carriage disappeared down the road, the gypsy lady breathed a sigh of relief. Her aide, a girl who looked disheveled and worn out, appeared from behind a curtain.

“I finished the robes you asked me to repair.” The girl’s voice had a hollow sound to it, as if she had no more will to live.

“What? That was so quick! Did you even get any sleep last night?”

The girl hung her head.

“No.”

“You’re going to kill yourself, working nonstop like this for so long. But the truth is, my dear, I’m actually going to need you to do a very important job for me and it needs to be done very soon. Agnes Richter was just here — I’m assuming you’ve heard of her — and she says that her daughter-in-law and son will soon be welcoming a new baby! She wants us to make a beautiful, royal blanket for the little newcomer. It needs to be done this week.”

“A baby?”

“Yes, a baby! Why do you look so strange? Can’t you do it?”

“I think so...”

“Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you, Sofia.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 741)

 

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