Resisting the Enemy
Normandy, August 2000
“Are you sure you’re up to talking about this, Grand-père?”
The old man’s eyes opened, and he managed a smile and a nod. Although she used the honorific, she wasn’t his granddaughter, but she was still family so that was what mattered.
“When you’re ready. You were telling me about the strangers.”
“Ah oui, I was, wasn’t I.” He closed his eyes, remembering the group of men who had come into his life briefly and by doing so changed everything. “They weren’t Marquis like we were. Except for one. Michel, he was French.” He coughed, but refused the water she offered. “The others pretended they were someone they weren’t, but I knew that. I think we all knew that, even before we discovered the truth.” His voice softened. “They resisted the enemy, the same as we did. Two Americans, a British man who was at least part Chinese, I think, and Michel’s German friend.”
He opened his eyes just in time to see the girl’s eyebrow rise.
“You worked with a German?”
“They weren’t all bad, ma chère, although I remember being very suspicious of him in particular at the time. He and his friends worked with us, and risked their lives to end the war. They weren’t content to sit on the sidelines and wait to go home. One of them—the German—carried a secret he had to keep safe at all costs, although sometimes I wonder if the cost was too high.”
“Did they survive the war?” She leaned in, waiting for his answer. “Did he keep his secret safe? Do you know what it was?”
“We’d won one victory, but there was still a lot to do, still a lot of fighting ahead of us. We lived one day at a time. That was all any of us could do.” He wondered if there was much point in sidestepping her questions.
If any of them had survived they’d be his age now. He preferred to think of them as they’d been all those decades ago. Young, but weary, clinging onto the hope they’d survive. They’d been close, a team brought together by a common cause.
He’d lost too many he considered friends, and more during that time, and since. One in particular still visited his dreams, but he didn’t regret the decision he’d made back then.
He’d done what was right, and followed his heart.
“You’re still recording this, oui?” He placed his hand on hers, and waited until he had her full attention. “It’s important someone remembers. So much has been forgotten already. I’ll tell you what I remember of them, what I knew....”
It was so long ago now that he couldn’t see the point in keeping secrets. Better that someone at least knew of the sacrifices they’d all made, and kept their story alive.