The commuter ferry that sailed to and from Amsterdam Central Station reversed into the northern harbour. Elsa pedalled so hard that a rivulet of sweat ran down the valley of her back. A day without seeing him would be a day not worth living. Elsa’s bike skidded to a halt and a German soldier patrolling the quayside said, ‘Where’s the fire, my beauty?’
City-bound workers boarded the boat, weaving in and out of alighting passengers like an army of ants. A creature beat its wings in Elsa’s breast as the man took up his usual position, leaning against the railings opposite her. In the sunlight, his sable hair glinted.
The ferry shuddered and black smoke plumed from its chimney. It was the first sunny day of spring and Elsa closed her eyes, imbibing the heat. When she opened them he was staring at her. Blood rushed to her cheeks but she held his gaze. He had shadows under his eyes and his clothes looked crumpled. A grey scarf hung over his coat lapels. Elsa imagined caring for him; making him a warm meal, giving him clean clothes. When they disembarked she would talk to him. If the throng carried her in the opposite direction she would cycle after him. Would it matter if she were a few minutes late at the office?
Elsa’s heart pummelled to escape as the ferry lowered its ramp. On solid ground the maelstrom sucked her in and she cursed the crush that stole him away. He broke free from the cluster and glancing back threw his scarf over his shoulder. Elsa’s throat slammed shut when she saw the yellow Star of David sewn on his lapel. She stepped back into the river of people; allowed the current of bodies to carry her away from him.