As Tina walks away from the empty boxcar, she witnesses retribution from the people.
Six blocks or more from her father's store, she saw the commotion in the middle of the street. Three of them held the lady down until a man wrested both her arms behind her so that her chin came up in a violent thrust of pain. They pushed her to her knees, helpless, while another, a woman, took the lady's hair up like handfuls of sand in her fists and jerked back her head, the proud, white lines in the lady's neck stretched and exposed beneath the anger of her avenger, the woman with the shears.
The lady spit profanity in questions thick with rage. "What have I done?" she screamed. "Tell me what the hell I have done!" Over and over again she said it, not as if to plead her innocence, but instead to accuse them all of evil, to indict them--her own neighbors, standing there gleefully. She was incensed at all of them, because, she said not one of the crowd who had stood and cheered as the good townsmen had beat down the door of her apartment and wrestled her into the street, not one of them was pure.
"What--have--I--done?" she screamed, the flattened pitch of her defiance, like the cry of a cornered animal, overpowering the mob's cries for vengeance.
Tina watched from behind an old silent man in a wool coat who kept nodding approval. The woman with the shears chopped and slashed at the lady's hair until her scalp came up in splotches of milky white, and the only mark of her prettiness was a single gold earring left dangling.
Her voice softened into moans. The men used twine to tie her hands and feet behind her back, so she knelt, erect, her chest forward boldly. But she kept her eyes clenched shut, her face lifted so it shone in a yellow mask of bright sun. Anger stiffened her, kept her eyes aloof from the evil in the faces of those screaming for more humiliation.
A coatless man came up behind her with a can of paint, and the old woman held the lady again, this time by the ears to keep her head still, while the man painted a red swastika over her forehead. Paint ran down her temples, around the bottoms of her ears, and into her neck. The crowd cheered wildly when he dabbed her with a Fuhrer's red mustache, and they roared when it was through, when she stood there, still perfectly straight on her knees, crowned in what seemed like blood, her mouth forced open for the sheer volume of her breathing.
Tina knew why it had been done. Her mother would never had told her, never have mentioned the particular sin, but she herself knew which women had slept in Nazi beds. Everyone knew who hadn't suffered. No one had forgotten. And now there was punishment for those who'd grown fat on the German bile.
Much of the mob moved away quickly once the humiliation was over, anxious to find other collaborators, some spitting on the young woman as she waited, still motionless and proud in the echo of their derision. But Tina waited and watched the scarred lady until finally, almost totally abandoned, the woman's anger broke and she slumped to her side in the dirt.
Her gray blouse gaped across the front to show a line of thin lace across her chest. Perhaps she had tried to disguise herself that day, to look like all the others who had starved, but they hadn't been fooled.
Her staggered breaths seethed like the sound of someone left shivering in winter. Her bare legs angled beneath her in the dirt, and she struggled to stretch one elbow down to keep herself from lying helplessly.
At first it had been hard with Jaap. Even the third time she had been sick when he left. She could not understand how a woman could be the way this lady had been with the horrible, proud men in those boots. She wondered how many of them had seen her body naked, how many had laid themselves over her. The very thought turned her skin brittle. At the very beginning the Nazis had enchanted her with their neatness, with the way their caps stood and peaked in a crest where the eagles were pinned. First, they seemed so strong. Now she hated them for everything they had done, even to her.
Her eyes still closed, the lady turned her naked head round and round against the wet, spring air. The lines in her forehead softened as her anger abated.
"Damn," she said, the thick red straps of paint bending crookedly over her head in a pattern that seemed already only a faint resemblance to the Nazi's crooked cross. Tina's mother would have shouted at the woman for her profanity. She would have clasped her daughter's ears, shamed that a child should have to hear such horror.
"You reap what you sow, you know." Tina said, standing close enough to look down at her. "My mother would say that. She would say God is punishing you."
The woman opened her eyes, her head slowly turning to locate the voice. She winced a bit as if she were looking into the dawn. "Who are you?" she said.
"They suffered--all of them suffered when you were wearing lace." She kept herself away far enough, because her mother would have warned her not to get close to such a woman, even though she seemed powerless to get up off the ground.
"You're just a baby," she said, "aren't you?"
"I'm fifteen," Tina said. "I know what you've done. Everyone knows what you did with the Nazis."
The lady pulled a shoulder up to her mouth and wiped off the dirt, but the red of the mustache streaked across her lips and cheek. "I chose how to suffer," she said. "Choosing is my sin. That's all." She ran her tongue over the sticky paint on her lips.
Tomorrow: Tina's peace.