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Starry Starry Night

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Germany is cold, and when the cattle truck slows to a stop, Daniel LeBlanc yearns for the warm fireplace in his Paris home.

They shove him in a cell and do not come back to question him, even as he waves his hand through the bars or pleads with the rotating guards. One phone call, one letter, one small mercy, please. He knows he isn’t supposed to be here, can’t imagine why they’ve imprisoned him, and prays every day that his family is not suffering the same fate.

He thinks of Marie-Laure often. He can’t see the stars here.

Every new moon, when the sky was dark and the clouds blocked his view of the beyond, the stars never faded. He could kiss each and every one goodnight, could hold them in his hands, could watch them peacefully sleep the night away. The stars faithfully walked by his side every single day. They would never leave him, just as he would never leave his daughter.

Slumped against the dry cell wall, Marie-Laure’s father shoves his hands in his pockets to stop them from fidgeting. He looks out the small window and receives no reprieve. The sky is the blackest he’s ever seen, although he knows there’s a thin layer of white covering the ground. There is not a single star in sight.

He had promised her it would be ten days. It had been seven.

Daniel wonders what Etienne is doing, what the crazy old man has been doing for the past week. He was unsurprised to hear Madame Manec explain his uncle’s tip into insanity. After his father died, nothing had been quite the same. The locksmith wonders if his imprisonment will bring the entire house down. What would happen to Marie-Laure?

A loud noise makes his head lift and his hands once again wrap around the bars. A few moments pass, and he can hear the normal moans and groans of the prisoners in the cells next to him. But no guards poke their heads down the hall, no Frenchman comes to unlock his cell with hurried apologies. No one to help, nothing to do. His hands return to his pockets.

He sighs, and his breath is a thin puff of air. His hands are shaking in his coat, and the locksmith curls up as tight as he can against the stone wall. He thinks of Marie-Laure, her freckles, his stars, spinning her around in his arms until her joy filled his ears. He remembers the two of them on a warm day, sitting in the park, eating strawberry ice cream that dripped onto her blue dress. He’d had to wipe the drops away. Ten days he was supposed to be away from her.

On the tenth day, he knew the stars would blink out and never return.