"Maria?" He glanced up and down the corridor, looking down at the child standing expectantly before his door holding a kitten and a picture drawn on a scrap of newspaper. He sighed, pulling the door open wider and leaning slightly against it. "I thought you were to leave that creature behind."
She smiled, the kitten clutched to her chest, pawing at the hair that had fallen out of one of her braids. She held the picture out to him. "Papa said that I could come over and give this to you!"
"Will you leave if I shut this door?"
She shook her head, pulling Hadassah up as it slipped through her arms.
He pressed his lips together, stepping aside to allow her in. "Then I insist that you come within. And it does not get milk this time!"
She slipped inside, wrapping a one-armed hug around his waist before continuing into his rooms.
He shook his head, shutting the door and following her withing, frowning as the kitten disappeared into the kitchen again. "Do you not feed it?"
"It eats as much as me Jakob says!" She pressed the picture into his hands, bouncing lightly on her feet as she waited for him to look at it.
He lifted the paper up, squinting at the charcoal markings. He shrugged, handing it back to the girl. "Your artwork eludes me."
She giggled and stepped away, shaking her head. "No – it's for you, Eilam. Gabriel brought me some paper and wood to draw with – but you don't have any pictures!" She turned away, looking at his bare walls. Shivering, she wrapped her arms around herself, pulling her cardigan tighter. "Mr. Eilam, why is it always so cold in here?"
"Because you are too weak to stand the temperature."
She smiled, distracted. "That's not true! Our room is warm!"
"Then you are enduring sensory hallucination, child, and should probably receive treatment."
She giggled, and then held her hands up to be lifted.
"You will break my back."
"...Please? I don't have Hadassah this time – just me..."
He frowned at her for a moment, and then surrendered with a sigh. "This is the last time. Those weak or with deformities are the first to be eradicated – I would prefer to survive this war, hm?"
She rested her head against his shoulder. "You're funny, Eilam."
He gently rocked her as he walked into the small room he used for his kitchen. "Would you like a piece of bread, child?" He felt her nod, and opened the cupboard to pull out the loaf he kept wrapped there. "Now, do not ask for another – you are as useful as that creature at times..."
"Maria, where have you been? Your brother has been home for an hour – he said that you came home before him!"
She dropped the kitten to the floor, watching it scamper away.
She blinked and then looked up at her mother, smiling. "I showed Eilam his picture! Mother, his house is so cold and so empty..." She frowned, remembering. "There's nothing there."
She sighed. "Maria, I've told you before to leave Mr. Aberl along – he does not want to be bothered."
She grinned up at her mother and then skipped out of the room. "Alright!"
She looked up from the puddle she was tracing ripples in, jumping up when she recognised him. Wordlessly, she ran and wrapped her arms around his waist, pushing him back a step.
"Child, I have no time for laundry and these streets are hardly hygenic – child?" He tilted her face up, frowning at the tear-tracks. He sighed. "What have you done this time?" He glanced around. "And wherever has your creature got to? It is nearly your shadow... No – no. don't cry child. Here," He pulled out a handkerchief and wiped off her face. "Let us be a little neat, shall we? Now, tell me what has gone wrong so that I may return you to your keepers."
"Had-dassah's g-gone. He ran away and he won't come back."
"How fortunate that I am rid of it." He sighed. "But it seems that if I want to be rid of you now I shall have to find the creature. Come here, child." He bent, and lifted her up. "Where did you lose it?"
She straightened and looked up the street, pointing towards an alley. "He ran in there."
He nodded, looking at it, then turned back and entered the building they lived in.
"Eilam, he's not in here – don't leave him please!"
"Hush, child – you're hurting my ears. I'm hardly leaving him, but I am fetching some milk to call him back. The thing is always hungry, it will likely return. Are you hungry?"
She relaxed and nodded, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Very well. It is about to rain and I hardly need to deal with an ill child – you may eat your bread here, but then you must return to your parents." He set her down in the room, going through his cupboards again.
"Let me worry about Haddassah." He handed her a slice of bread. "I will find him."
"Maria, he will come back – we are his family. Come play with me – you can't mope all day!" The brother sighed and pulled his arms away from his sister. "I'm bored."
"It's raining. What if he didn't get under shelter? What if he got wet?"
"Then we'll just have to dry him if he comes back. Maria, it's dark outside! Mr. Aberl probably had to go to sleep!"
"Jakob, leave your sister alone and answer the door, please."
"Yes, Mother." He got up from the sofa and pulled open the door. "Hello-"
The man stepped back and gently stopped the child as she ran up to him again. "I will not deal with you when you are sick, child – stay away until I dry."
"When is that?"
"Perhaps when you are much, much older. And when this thing is gone." He reached into his thin jacket to pull out a mostly dry, sleeping kitten; dropping it into the girl's waiting arms. "Pray, take care not to lose it, hm?"
"Thank you, Mr. Aberl – you need not have done it." The mother frowned at his soaked clothes. "Would you like to come in for a moment?"
"Hardly another option lest I wanted to hear her mourning it ad infinitum. And no, thank you. I rather think that I should return and exchange these sodden garments for drier apparel. Good night, Madame."
"Maria. Cease pounding on the door immediately."
"Eilam? I brought some biscuits over for you."
"No – I could not eat them today. Were they yours?"
"Yes. I am sharing!"
She heard him sigh. "Not today. You must eat them for me – they are not any use stale."
"...will you let me in if I put Haddassah back?"
"No, child – I am tired. Your creature led me across half of Germany, I feel – I only need sleep."
"...maybe later today?"
"Perhaps. Now let me sleep. Please take your creature elsewhere and bother another."
She smiled. "Good night, Eilam!"
"Maria! Let me fix dinner!"
"Mother, Eilam won't answer the door and it's locked!"
"He has said many times before that he prefers his privacy – perhaps he does not want to be shadowed by a little girl."
"But he said I could visit later and that was two days ago! People don't sleep that long, do they?"
She sighed, gently pushing the child out of the room. "Perhaps you may visit him tomorrow."
Maria stood outside the kitchen door, sighing. Hearing the kitten mew, she turned to pick it up and saw it rubbing around her father's feet. "Papa! Please, something's wrong with Eilam!"
He sighed. "Maria, he has asked you to let him be."
"No – he said that I could visit yesterday but he didn't even answer the door! Please, Papa, check on him?"
The Mother stepped to the door again. "You may as well – dinner will be an hour yet, and she will not let the matter lie."
Maria pulled at her father's hand, tugging him up the corridor. "I can't open the door."
He knocked, and knocked again when there was no answer. "Mr. Aberl, I am sorry for troubling you – Maria insists that you are unwell."
When there was no answer to his third knock, he tried the door knob, twisting the broken thing until the door swung open. Maria clung to his hand, looking around the empty rooms. Her father paused on the threshold and then pushed her back out.
"Run and fetch your mother, Maria – tell her to come quickly."
There was a clatter as she dropped the bricks she was playing with and scrambled to the side of the pallet he lay on. "Eilam! You're awake!"
He winced at the pitch of her voice, pushing the kitten away from his face. "Maria, what are you doing here?" He looked around the cheery if cramped rooms her family kept. "Why am I here?"
She smiled, resting her chin in her hands. "Papa said it was too cold in your room, and Mama said that you had no food – so they brought you here!" She frowned. "...you wouldn't wake up – why wouldn't you wake up?"
He sighed, reaching out and taking her hand as he closed his eyes again. "I was sick in your stead it seems – pray do not lose your kitten again. I will not endure this for that thing one more time."
She smiled. "Alright! Do you want to see the picture I drew?"
"...Must my eyes be open?"
She giggled. "Silly Eilam – yes!"
"Then no, I rather think not... Show it to the creature."
AN: Well, the song doesn't really fit – but the words do as the title! 'Ave Maria' translates as 'hail Mary', and 'hail' just means to greet someone. Of course, in this setting, it's scarily similar (for good reason...) to 'heil' so...perhaps not the best. But I've no other ideas. There is a companion to this piece. For some reason when I write these two it always ends up being mostly dialogue – I think it's because I'd get it terribly wrong if I tried to include more. But this is just an idea that began with Remember, Remember – Adam getting sick because he gave his food to Maria and most of his extra clothes to poorer children. And he rerouted the heat from his room into Maria's so they would be warmer. *Sighs* 11-26-2015