TAKE ME, PLEASE! I BEG YOU! I WANT TO BE WITH MY FAMILY!

Early one morning, dark clouds dominated the sky, rain spattered, and thunder growled. Exhausted by her recent tribulations, Lilia had succumbed to the comfort and warmth of her bed. She hoped to sleep longer than usual, but she was ripped from her stupor by the sounds of a soul being shredded from the inside. Lilia threw open her shutters, letting in a woman’s blood-curdling cries, a flash of lightning, and rumbling from afar. 

     “Not my family! Oh, dear God, I will never see you again!”

     Lilia darted outside to see what was happening. She found her parents at the gate, clutching one another and gasping in horror, while Eliseo stood trembling in disbelief. Lilia peeled her eyes to the street, where a scene of the purest pain played out before her. She saw Albina running after her husband and children, who had been seized by the Germans. Lilia had actually believed that this wartime terror could not get any worse, but now, she saw the brutal reality. 

     At the moment the Germans had burst through their front door, Ferruccio panicked and leaped out the upstairs window, running rooftops to avoid capture—while his father, two sisters, and little brother were arrested and made to trudge on at gunpoint in single file. From the piazza, they boarded the army truck destined for the Udine prison.

     A village spy had turned the family in for aiding the American soldier. Every thread of Albina’s happy memories would be forever clouded by an emptiness more agonizing than death.

     “Take me! Please, I beg you.” Albina locked her fingers together, her wide eyes desperately searching the German soldier’s face. “Take me with you! I want to be with my family! 

     “Look at you. You, pathetic old woman,” he scoffed, shoving her to the ground. “Go home.” 

     Lilia watched him smile with contempt as Albina crouched in the rain, crying out of every pore, begging for mercy for her family. How much more grief could they all endure? Lilia felt utterly deflated. God and any sense of human goodness she’d ever believed in felt like they had fled this place long ago.

     Is this all my fault? Lilia thought, as her throat burned from all the screams she was keeping at bay. Is it because of me that they found and helped the pilot? 

     Maria and Virginio ran to Albina, trying to pull her inside, but she was wildly hysterical. “I would rather die than be without them!” she continued to sob. “How can I live without them?”

     When the truck pulled away, Albina dissolved into despair and collapsed to her knees, moaning and groaning as she clawed the rain-soaked dirt. Virginio tried to peel her limp, wet body off the ground. Her unblinking eyes had gone seemingly blind, and saliva dripped from her loose mouth onto him as he lifted her into his arms. The people of Mussons were left stunned and frozen in place, behind their walls, behind doors, behind shutters…all the while knowing that nowhere was safe. 

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