They have four of us. We stand in a line under their scrutinizing eyes like four ordinary citizens...except we aren't. All four of us are secretly members of the French Resistance.
You see the oldest on the right. His name is Reymundo. A more pious man you will not meet, and as stubborn as a French mule. Once he believes himself to be right, there is no shaking him. It makes him a difficult man in an argument at the dinner table, and sometimes he gets on my nerves. But I owe him more than a little respect for the strength in which he stands against the German Nazis.
The man to his left is Barrie. He's been with us for 6 months...sort of. His wife and two little girls do not know that he has joined our ranks. At first, I thought he was not as committed to our cause as the rest of us. He is quiet. He comes, prints our newspaper, and goes home. There's no fire in his eyes, no anger, no vengence. It's not until recently that I've come to recognize the calm commitment in the very core of his being. It's the same sort of commitment that makes a man go to work every day to provide for his wife and family. It doesn't take an emotional passion to be strong. Steadiness is part of the fiber of his being. I know now, as I stand here in a line with him, that he will let that Nazi prod him without one flash of rebellion firing through his eyes, but he will never tell them what they want to know. Ever.
To Barrie's left is Montgomery. Young kid. He ought not be here. Too soft. Too sensitive. He hates cruelty -- that's what drove him to join us to stop the Nazis. But today is the day we find out which he hates more: cruelty to all of France or cruelty to himself. Will he fold under Nazi interrogation to save his own skin? Or will he prove he has the metal of a true member of the Resistance? Today may be his day to make that choice.
And then there is me. You see me on the left. A Nazi soldier walks down the line. I stare straight ahead, refusing to meet his eyes. He would read too much in mine. Because if I'm going down, I'm taking the German invaders down with me. There's a power swelling up inside of me, so strong that it drives all fear out. I'm not the one who should be afraid. It's the Nazis who are going to lose. All the might derived from their egocentric purposes cannot touch the determination inside of me, inside of every Resistance fighter. From those printing our newspapers to those running sabotage on German communication lines to those smuggling Allied soldiers to safety, our lifeblood won't be suppressed forever. We will win.
"Sturmbannfuhrer!" The Nazi soldier's eyes meet mine. "This one is trouble."
I stumble forward as a gun prods me from behind, but a smile flickers through my eyes. The soldier's words barely scratch the surface. They have no idea exactly how much trouble I am going to make for them.
Today is the day that I teach them.
And tomorrow that class will be continued by every Resistance fighter in France. Every Reymundo and Barrie and, yes, even every Montgomery -- for, looking back as the Nazis shove me into a truck, I see the way the kid has squared his shoulders -- they will make the Germans regret that they ever came.
We. Will. Win.
[This short story was written for the historical fiction link-up hosted by Emily Putzke. Click here for more details.]