The Things We Cherished: A Novel by Jenoff Pam

The Things We Cherished: A Novel by Jenoff Pam

Author:Jenoff, Pam [Jenoff, Pam]
Language: eng
Format: mobi
ISBN: 9780385534215
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published: 2011-07-11T16:00:00+00:00

Eight

BRESLAU, 1942

Roger set down his notes and looked out the window, chewing on the end of his pencil, a schoolboy’s habit he had never been able to break. The courtyard below was empty now, but he knew that the men would soon appear. He had gotten used to the quiet routine of the synagogue over the past eighteen months; it had become a timepiece of sorts, marking the hours like the clock on the mantel in the living room two floors below, or the neighbor’s rooster that crowed mornings back home in Wadowice. The men came to worship in small groups in the weekday evenings, with larger crowds on their Sabbath and holidays.

Or they used to, anyway. The change had come quietly at first, and it was so subtle that he might have missed it had he been studying for exams and not looking out the window most days, daydreaming and putting himself in danger of failing out of the university altogether. Attendance had decreased to a trickle and then a handful of men, and the few that did still come moved swiftly through the courtyard to the synagogue entrance, not stopping to look up at the magnificent structure but glancing furtively behind them and ducking inside, afraid to be seen.

From below came a familiar scratching sound. Roger held his breath, gauging with an appraising ear the nearness of Magda’s footsteps, whether they were growing louder as she climbed the stairs. But they faded again and he heard a door shut as she walked into the kitchen. He exhaled, trying to contain his disappointment.

The dwindling presence of the Jews was not the only thing that had changed in the time since Roger had lived here. The realization that he was in love with his brother’s wife had come swiftly, falling upon him like a sudden weight from above. It had started innocently enough: often in the evenings when Hans was out of town and the study had grown too cold to work, or when he did not dare to leave his light on because the sirens had signaled an air raid, Roger would join Magda in the parlor, reading for class by candlelight while she knitted.

Occasionally one or the other would make a comment and they would break from their respective activities. Their conversation ventured from one subject to the next, minutes bleeding into hours as his reading lay unfinished and she had to redo the stitches she’d dropped while distracted. He didn’t mind the time that seemed to evaporate between them, leaving him working harder and faster at his studies the next day to accomplish all that needed to be done. Those evenings, as they sat across from each other, the Victrola playing softly in the background, were the most peaceful that he had ever known.

It was more than just her beauty that had drawn Hans to Magda, Roger decided as he got to know her better. She had an intelligence and wit about her that in other circumstances might have opened worlds of possibility.



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