KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Flash Fiction: 956 words

The Lonely Ones

by Anniken Davenport

Oslo, 16 February 1945


Sugar. Milk. Real bread, minus the sawdust. Coffee.

Three boys.



Minus Jens.

Minus the favorite.

Marit, her sister’s child, is on the linoleum floor under the table, curled up in a fetal position, in a hand-me-down faded nightgown, two long blonde braids tied with red ribbons falling down her back. Her bare feet are tucked under the flannel and in her hand is the mechanical chicken Nikolas passed her under the barbed-wire fence. A white Irish linen tablecloth, carefully pressed but not starched, provides the hideout for a six-year-old with no remembered “before” of her own quite yet.

Her after will come, as it comes for all of us—unbidden, unwelcome, and unrelenting. But not yet. Not today. This is still before for Marit. Still Eden.

Even with the heavy curtains, a draft slips in from the window and makes cold little swirls around Maria’s feet. Wind gusts rattle the wooden frame. Sometimes, when the wind hits the window at just the right angle, snowflakes leave wild patterned ridges on the floor. Marit doesn’t notice. She likes the security of her hiding place, where she can listen to the adults while dozing, not quite making out the words, nor picking up on their emotions.

Maria shifts in the chair, uncrosses her legs, and runs a hand over the tablecloth, smoothing out a fold line here and there. She notices the faint outline of a round brown stain. It must be an old one resurfacing, since she can’t remember the last time there was coffee in the house.

She closes her eyes and puts her hands around the remembered porcelain cup, takes a deep breath and feels the steam rise to her nostrils. Her nose captures the pungent smell of the fresh ground coffee. In the distance, a percolator gurgles.


Maria stands and walks to the window. She likes looking out, so she turns off the overhead light and pulls the curtain back a little. She positions the bentwood chair so she can just see the gravel path leading to the apartment building’s common entrance and not the barbed-wire fence surrounding the prisoner of war camp the occupiers have built in the open field beyond.

She closes her eyes again and listens for the crunch the little rocks make when Jens’ boots make contact with the gravel, still holding out hope he’ll be released. It is cruel, this hope the two remaining brothers offer.

Maria shivers and pulls her bathrobe closer. Then she lifts her arm against the window and uses the terrycloth sleeve to scrub away a light layer of frost, making circular motions to create a porthole on the world.

In the low morning light, she can’t quite make out more than the gravel walkway and decides she needs her glasses. Bare feet against the linoleum, she shuffles into the dark hallway and feels for the glasses she knows are on the little bureau by the door.

She hears the gravel in the walkway, holds her breath and lets herself hope.

The metal door at the apartment building entrance squeaks open and shut.

Then heavy boots on the stairs. Not Jens. The beat is wrong.

One flight.

One more.

A third.

She feels the cold flush of fear.

She takes a step toward the door, then hesitates. Her glasses are still in her right hand, so she puts them on.

A knock. Not a demanding open-up-the-damn-door knock, but a gentle one.


Maria, at the door now, looks through the peephole, her hand on the deadbolt. The soldier is tall, so tall she can’t see his face, just the bright buttons on his uniform. Then he knocks again, and as he does he squats down so she can see his face through the portal. His steel-blue eyes are rimmed in red as if he hasn’t slept for a long time.

She recognizes the soldier as the lieutenant who has been quartered with three others in the first-floor apartment since the first year of the occupation. The one who never says a word to anyone except Marit. Yes, that was the one. Marit, innocent Marit, friend to soldier and prisoner alike. What was it she said his name was? Fredrik, she thought. Yes, that’s right. Fredrik.

Maria opens the door just a little.

“Frau Jensen?”

She nods. How does he know my name, she wonders. Then it occurs to her that he may have news for her. A flash of hope dares to flare again.

He steps back and she opens the door wider.

Then he hands her the offering. Coffee in a shiny red bag.

She reaches out and takes it, rolls back the foil. Freshly ground and fragrant like before.

She lets him slip past her and watches as he heads for the kitchen. First, he turns on the front burner. She points to the cabinet by the refrigerator and he pulls out the percolator and hands it to her. Still, he says nothing.

She takes the pot, adds some coffee, pours some cold water from the tap, and sets it on the stove.

He pulls the second bentwood chair out from under the table and notices Marit and her mechanical chicken. A slight smile crosses his face and Maria motions for him to sit.

He pulls a telegram and a photo from his pocket and spreads them on the tablecloth. Maria steps closer. A girl with bangs and a big white bow in her blonde hair sits on her mother’s lap.

He looks up at Maria and she knows today is the beginning of his after.

She puts her arms around him, pulls his head between her breasts, and lets him cry.

—From the author’s novel-in-progress

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