‘Beautiful and heartbreaking’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Captivated me from the start’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Best read in a long time!!!’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Haunting. Gut-wrenching’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Hooked from page one’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Berlin, 1934. Homes once filled with laughter stand empty as the Nazi party’s grip on the city tightens. When Anna Tiegel ’s impulsive act to save a friend attracts the attention of a high-ranking Nazi official, she suddenly finds herself in terrible danger. As her world closes in, Anna’s only comfort is in the hope of escape with her boyfriend Eddy, but then he shockingly disappears… Rhode Island, 1957. Peggy Bailey stares in shock at the faded photograph of two laughing women which her beloved adoptive mother struggled to pass on to her before she died, whispering ‘It was inside your baby blanket when we brought you home’. Then Peggy realises that she has seen one of the girls before, in the most unlikely of places… Bursting at the discovery, she embarks on a mission which takes her across America to find the truth behind her heritage. Nothing, however, could prepare her for the tragic story her actions uncover, and how it will change her life forever… A poignant and beautiful World War Two story about survival and a mother’s enduring search for her child against all the odds. A heart-breaking read for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, We Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network. What readers are saying about The Lost Mother : ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘ My heart aches for these characters and the life they endured! So well written and I hated for it to be over!!!! ’ NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘ Absolutely heartbreaking. It’s beautifully written… I couldn’t put it down. Such an amazing rollercoaster of emotions. Have your tissues ready. Highly recommended.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘One of the best historical fiction/WWII books I’ve had the pleasure of reading… I couldn’t put it down… If you loved The Tattooist of Auschwitz or We Were The Lucky Ones, this is the book for you.’ NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Haunting. Gut wrenching… I feel like I have been on an emotional rollercoaster.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘ Loved it!!! Heartbreaking. I was sad to see the book end… Beautiful and heartbreaking.’ NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘This book was fantastic… This is a totally heart-wrenching read… Anyone who loves the work of authors such as Kristen Hannah or Marie Benedict will adore this book. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.’ My Cat Reads ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘This book is so, so, so good.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Fabulous book – the author weaves an incredible story and I couldn’t put it down until I was finished. Dying to read her next book already.’ NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Beautifully written… will pull at your heart strings… It is an inspiring and emotional read and one I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys a really gripping story.’ Christian Novel Review ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘ Heartbreaking.’ NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘A richly rewarding novel that draws readers in from the first few pages… I loved this story and will be recommending it to everyone.’ Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘Should be on every historical fiction lover’s ‘must-have’ list.’ NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
‘This book is one of the most riveting WWII fiction stories that I have read. … So heartbreaking, but Catherine Hokin captures the resilience of the human spirit… Truly, an emotional book.’ NetGalley reviewer
Release date: January 28, 2021
Print pages: 350
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All Who Wander
Four months. That’s when they start to laugh. It could be her. If it’s a little girl, it could be her.
A hopeless thought, a desperate thought. And yet…
Anna opened her eyes. There was a baby carriage parked beside the opposite bench, and two women arm in arm cooing over it. It was such a jolt to see anyone sitting there, Anna wondered for a moment if she was still sleeping, if she had somehow conjured them up.
In the four weeks since she had first found this little corner of Central Park, she had been its sole occupant, besides the birds and the occasional curious rabbit. At seven o’clock in the morning, which was Anna’s preferred time to slip away – or, more accurately, the one time in the day she could carve out for herself – Central Park was a haven. It was too early for the office workers seeking a moment’s solitude before the demands of their day engulfed them, or for the children who, come afternoon, would spill from their classrooms into its playgrounds. There were no honking car horns, no whooshing subway vents; none of the clamour which filled the rest of the city. The air was so still, Anna could hear the lions in the park’s zoo roaring their good-mornings. The tree-shaded nook had become her place to breathe, and to remember. To be herself away from prying eyes, with all the longings and the pain that shedding of her outer skin brought. And now that sound, that beautiful sound, had slipped out of her imaginings and she was struggling to hold on to the day.
‘She’s only recently started doing it.’ The young woman rocking the boat-shaped pram caught Anna looking and smiled. ‘The laughing, I mean. The slightest thing sets her off. If we could get her to start sleeping as happily, life would be perfect!’
It was clear from her shining eyes that life was already quite perfect.
Anna nodded – all her words seemed to have left her – as the older of the two women beamed.
‘My first grandchild, such a beauty and always up before the rest of the world. We thought a little fresh air might help, but she’s far too curious to settle.’
It should be me rocking the pram. It should be my mother bragging about her precocious grandchild.
The image of the three of them sitting together, her holding her baby, her mother holding her – an image Anna had been running from for months – hit her so hard, she gasped.
The real mother and grandmother moved instinctively closer to the pram.
It could still be me. If I could only find her. If I had my own baby back, I could make a home. I could find some way of contacting Mutti. If I had my own baby back, I could do anything.
She got up, wanting nothing more than a closer look at the child. The baby was lying on her back, her satin-edged blanket kicked off, her face all circles and smiles. She peered up at Anna and chuckled.
‘Sie ist sehr schön. Sehr schön.’
The German came from nowhere.
The mother was suddenly on her feet, her body thrust between Anna and her child, her arms outstretched as if to fight Anna off. ‘Get away from her.’
It was the same order that had torn Anna apart in Berlin’s Charité Hospital. Delivered in the same staccato tone. Time slipped away and took reality with it. All Anna could see was the ward, and the cot, and another woman reaching out for the child that was really hers.
‘Aber sie ist mein. Ich bin ihre Mutter.’
The blow stung Anna’s cheek and broke whatever bad spell had gripped her.
‘I am sorry. I am so very sorry.’
She had recovered her English, but it was too late. There was nothing she could say to make amends for the fear in the other woman’s eyes.
‘I know she’s your baby, not mine. I never meant any harm or to frighten you. But my daughter is here in America. She is somewhere here. And I need to get her back.’ The words came out in a tumble, her accent all heavy and tripping them.
The older woman pulled the pram away and began shouting for help.
‘I really am sorry.’
The apology was pointless, insulting. Her words had no weight here. Her pain, so raw and alive, had lashed out and hurt someone else. She had made another mother feel as wretched and afraid as she had been. It was unforgiveable; it was not who she was.
The mother was sobbing, clutching her baby. Footsteps were coming, the grandmother’s cries had been heard.
Anna turned and, still stumbling over her apologies and her longing, she ran.
When had casseroles become the currency of death?
Peggy slammed the fridge door shut and slumped against it, convinced she could feel the metal bulging beneath her back. In the week since her mother’s burial, the fridge’s shelves had mutated into walls of Pyrex. There was enough food crammed between the groaning racks to feed two high school football teams, never mind a girl of twenty-two who barely scraped five-feet-five in heels.
Peggy had begun to dread the doorbell ringing. No one had warned her about these neighbourly rituals. Fruit Hill, where the Baileys had lived since their move from New York, was a close community – like every part of Rhode Island. Everyone’s lives had become intertwined years ago by the demands of school calendars and potluck suppers. But, when Peggy’s father, Jack, had died five years earlier, the street had simply dropped round cards and praised her mother for being ‘so capable’ and ‘such a trooper’. Not this time. Now Peggy was no longer her parents’ ‘bright spark’ but a ‘poor little soul’, pushed back into childhood and apparently incapable of coping. Well meant or not, it was wearing her down.
It had been a week since Peggy had managed a proper night’s sleep. She kept lying awake, unable to switch off, not thinking about her mother as she wanted to be doing, but fretting over the stupidest things. Worrying whether her thank-yous sounded as mechanical to her neighbours as they increasingly did to her. Worrying whether there was some order of value ascribed to this procession of a little something to tide you over that everyone but she knew, and that her ignorance was failing her mother. She had lain sleepless, lost in the ridiculous task of trying to determine whether tuna noodle carried more affection in its crust than hamburger bake. Whether the declarations stirred into a home-made marinara sauce topped those tipped in with a can of condensed soup. Standing in the kitchen now, pressed against the fridge door as if she was holding back a dam on the edge of erupting, Peggy had a sudden vision of ice rinks and scorecards. Of casseroles pirouetting.
‘Which one would you put your money on, Mom? I bet you a dollar to a doughnut the noodles would take it.’
The kitchen shivered, the fridge turned hollow. Peggy gripped tight to a chair and tried to remember how to breathe. When would it stop? This calling out, this speaking aloud to someone who was so painfully, so obviously not there? This turning, expecting to see her mother’s answering grin, expecting her to jump into whatever nonsense Peggy was spinning?
She groped her way to the sink, poured a glass of water, lowered herself into the chair as if her bones were brittle.
‘This is all your fault, Joan Bailey. I’m drowning in pot roast and who am I supposed to laugh about that with?’
She sipped at the water until her eyes stopped stinging. You don’t have to be on your own. All her friends had said it. She could pick up the phone and find someone in an instant who would listen. Nancy, who had been her room-mate during the final year Peggy had just completed at college, who had kept her standing during the diagnosis and the first few weeks of her mother’s illness and helped her see out that last impossible term. Any of the gang from their corridor. Barbara and Kathleen who she had known since high school, who still lived a handful of blocks away. She wasn’t short of people. But none of them are you. None of them could pick up one of Peggy’s ideas or a throwaway comment the way that her mother could, flipping it into a tale they tossed back and forward between the pair of them, as her imagination ran even faster than Peggy’s. None of them had that hug that wrapped like a blanket, no matter whether Peggy had brought bruised knees or a bruised heart for mending. And none of them carried such warmth in their smiles.
‘You talk about her as if she’s your best friend, not your mother.’
Her first-year room-mate had dropped that comment with a fair portion of envy. Peggy hadn’t argued. She had smiled and explained, possibly a little smugly, how Joan had always been her confidante and how, until his death at the hands of a distracted driver when Peggy was sixteen, her father Jack had been her hero.
‘You describe it all so perfectly, it makes me wonder what you’re hiding.’
She had forgotten that little barb, delivered by an older girl less bothered about being liked than the hungry-for-approval freshmen.
Were we really that close? Or were we too scared not to be?
Peggy couldn’t remember fighting with her parents the way her school and college friends described the flare-ups in their own homes. She couldn’t actually remember any rows at all. Her mother and father preferred, in her mother’s words, to keep ‘the mood pleasant’.
And I was always eager to please. Always determined to do the right thing and keep us all happy.
Unlike her girlfriends and their mothers, she and Joan had rarely found themselves at odds, especially after her father died. And on the few occasions they were, it was always Peggy who crumbled.
‘He would have been so proud of you. Of all the universities he taught at, Brown was his favourite.’
‘I know. But I’m not going.’
Sitting at the kitchen table where they had opened the acceptance letter, Peggy remembered her mother’s sudden shift from smile to snort, and winced.
‘How can I, Mom? When it means leaving you rattling around here on your own?’
‘Well, that’s very sweet, Peggy dear. But don’t you think it’s also a little insulting?’
Peggy remembered blushing scarlet at that, but Joan’s tone had remained gentle and the hands that caught hers had held tight. And her mother’s logic had been, as ever, inescapable.
‘I’m fifty-three, sweetheart, not eighty-three. And I hardly rattle around. I’ve taken on extra teaching this term; I’ve the chance to take on more. And, besides, when is this house ever empty? Between my bridge night and my book club night and all the wives who end up here looking for “a bit of space without men”, as they so tactfully put it, when am I ever alone? Who knows? I might enjoy a bit of peace. I’ll never stop missing your father, Peggy, and I will miss you too, you know I will. But I want you to go and get your degree, the way we all talked about. I want you out in the world, doing what you’ve always dreamed of. Besides, it’s Brown, not Berkeley; it’s an hour’s train ride away, if that. And it’s not as if I’m going anywhere.’
Except she had.
Peggy opened her eyes and wished she had opened them sooner, wished she had properly looked. How had none of her mother’s constant stream of visitors spotted it? How had she not spotted it? The weight loss, the tiredness, that was surely more than ‘I’ve been overdoing it’ or ‘I just need a holiday’? Why had she accepted the excuses so readily?
Because it was easier than facing the truth.
That Joan wasn’t ‘fine, stop pecking at me’, but riddled with a cancer that would leave her bedridden in three months from the diagnosis, dead in barely six.
Leaving so much unanswered and unsaid.
The doorbell chimed, shocking Peggy back into the present. She froze. She couldn’t bear another sad-eyed neighbour, another overfilled dish. She shrank into her chair. How would she ever get through the summer? And, if she did manage that without turning herself into a hermit, what would she do when September arrived without the safety net of classes?
Despite the shock of Joan’s illness, Peggy had graduated as one of the youngest and one of the highest placed students in her class – her mother had forbidden anything less than her completing her degree. The ceremony in May had been the last time Joan had made it out of bed and back into the world. So Peggy had her degree, but she hadn’t thought a moment past that. Her application letters to the newspapers whose desks she had imagined sitting at in a white shirt as crisp as Katherine Hepburn’s had gone unwritten. Her portfolio of college articles had gone unsent. For three months, Peggy had been a nurse, her world reduced to a bedside and trips to the pharmacy. Now she was rudderless, with no idea what to do next.
Except that isn’t strictly true.
Ignoring the still buzzing bell, Peggy crept out of the kitchen, clinging to the edges of the hallway to avoid casting a shadow across the half-glazed front door. She couldn’t stay in the house; it was still too full of her mother. And there was no college waiting, no job; nowhere else she was expected to be.
But there is a puzzle I could try solving, if I’m brave enough to do it.
Crouching below eye level, and feeling foolish for doing it, she slipped into the curtained front room. Ignoring the now stripped single bed, she crossed to the bureau and pulled open the top drawer. The photograph was still lying where she had left it on the night of her mother’s death, tossed face down on top of countless years’ worth of jumble.
‘I should have given it to you a long time ago. I’m sorry.’ Joan’s voice that night had been barely a whisper. ‘It was tucked inside the blanket you were wrapped in. Your real mother must have hidden it there.’
Your real mother. Joan had never used that expression before. It was hateful.
‘Don’t say that, not now. You don’t need to say anything; you need to save your strength.’
But Joan had caught at Peggy’s hand and kept going.
‘You don’t understand. I should have been kinder. I was taking her child. But we were desperate, your father and I. All those years trying, and longing. That’s why I could never tear up the picture, even though I wanted to. She wanted to leave you some piece of her. I couldn’t deny her that.’
Every word was born with such a struggle; in the end, Peggy had begged Joan to stop trying. She had only taken the photograph her mother was clutching because rejecting it had caused Joan unwatchable distress. She had barely looked at it. At that moment, she couldn’t bear the thought of attaching Mother to anyone except the woman too quickly slipping away.
‘I’ve got it. It’s fine. You can tell me whatever it is you need to tell me in the morning.’
Except the morning, for Joan, never came.
The doorbell had finally stopped ringing. Peggy shook herself and returned to the kitchen’s mint-green and cherry-red cheerfulness and placed the photograph carefully on the table. It looked even older in the sunlight, its black-and-white images fading to yellow. When she picked it up, the thin paper curled and a tiny tear in its middle threatened to spread. Two girls gazed back at her. Both of them were young, no more than eighteen or nineteen, and both were wearing fluted skirts that hugged their hips and flared out in pleats and frills at the calf. It was a narrower silhouette than the nipped-in waists and circle skirts Peggy and her friends ran around in. Based on the fashions she had seen in old photographs of her mother, Peggy guessed this one must have been taken in the late twenties or early thirties.
It wasn’t a studio shot. The people milling in the background – under a sign that read Hoppegarten, a word that meant nothing to Peggy – their shoulders and elbows jutting into the frame, suggested that the picture had been snapped, not staged. Both the girls were standing with their bodies turned in towards each other, their faces looking directly at the camera. One of them was slightly tight-lipped, although her eyes were sparkling. The other was positively glowing: looking slightly past the lens, her gaze measured, her mouth smiling but in a subtle way that was almost a pout. She seemed to Peggy as if she was cultivating a ‘look’, trying to project an air of mystery and sophistication that was dazzling but a little too old for her face. That the two were friends was obvious in their looped arms and tilted heads. But there were spaces between them too, and a stiffness in the smaller girl’s shoulders and elbows; hints that, for all their apparent closeness, there may have been differences that ran beyond the shape of a smile.
So which one is she? My mother? Which one do I want her to be?
Peggy dropped the photograph, the questions stinging. This was wrong. This was a betrayal of Joan.
Except that she kept it. And then she gave it to me when she was too ill to explain what it was. Isn’t that the real betrayal here?
For the first time in years, Peggy allowed the surge of anger she normally swallowed to surface. Her childhood had been happy because her parents had managed her, wasn’t that the real truth? Hadn’t everything been kept pleasant because the alternative – the everyday arguments and jealousies that other families were strong enough to deal with – was too frightening for them?
Peggy’s pulse was racing. She traced her finger up and down the tablecloth’s checks, using the rhythm to steady herself. She had spent so long not thinking about her past, she wasn’t sure she knew how to reach out to it. She had loved her parents, and they had loved her. She had no doubt about that; she had never been allowed a moment’s doubt about that.
But we were all equally afraid of testing the bond. Especially once I knew.
Before she knew; after she knew. They were two separate stages in her life, not that Peggy had ever admitted that. Or admitted how often she had wondered if her parents would have told her the truth if she hadn’t prompted the telling.
‘What does this word mean?’
Peggy could see the day her world shifted as clearly as she could see the current one. It had been a Saturday morning. Her parents had been drinking coffee in the kitchen of their cosy house on 81st and Columbus Avenue on New York’s Upper West Side; the house where they had lived since Peggy was a baby. Planning a trip to the market, consulting the weather forecast and debating whether they should take a wander round the Planetarium or risk the open spaces of Central Park. When she came through the door, Father had been making his usual weekend suggestion of a detour to Kirsch’s Bakery for Linzer Torte Cookies, and Mother had been looking pointedly at his waistline and shaking her head. Both of them knew they would end up there anyway.
There had been nothing remarkable; nothing to mark it out from any other Saturday. Until Peggy had waved the newspaper article at them and asked what I Am An Adoptive Mother meant and why the slightly fearsome Joan Crawford was saying it.
Peggy pushed at the tablecloth and remembered the look that had flashed between her parents, and the awkward pause that followed it. Jack had coughed and looked away, leaving Joan to answer her, with a smile so alarmingly bright, Peggy had instinctively taken a step back from it.
‘It means she chose her children, sweetheart. It means they were very much wanted.’
Peggy remembered liking that. Chosen sounded lovely, especially if it was a famous film star doing the choosing. She had been about to share that thought, and start what her father called her ‘story weaving’, when there was another look. And then there was a nod and a whisper she couldn’t catch, and her parents were suddenly holding hands so tight their knuckles stuck out like stones. She had gone to slip out of the room, not comfortable with whatever was hovering, but her mother had stopped her retreat.
‘Sit down, Peggy dear. Your father and I think it is time we told you something. It’s nothing to be scared of. Quite the opposite in fact.’
Her mother’s smile was still too bright and her voice was pitched too high. Peggy had dithered, sensing this something was too big for the room, but her mother patted the empty chair beside her, so Peggy did as she was asked, the same as she always did. And then out it all came. How Peggy had had a different mother first, in Germany of all places, who loved her very much, how could she not, but who couldn’t care for her and was terribly grateful when the Baileys stepped in. How lucky they all were that Daddy had been on secondment to the Humboldt University at exactly the right time, which meant that Peggy was surely meant to be theirs after so many years waiting for a child of their own. How Peggy too had been chosen and wanted, which made her extra-special. And how terribly lucky they all were because hadn’t everything worked out for the best?
Sitting in the silent kitchen, Peggy remembered how her mother’s voice had quickened. How still her father had been.
‘Am I a German then?’
It was the only thing she had managed to ask. Her mother’s laugh at the question was too shrill for her to risk asking anything more.
‘Of course not! You were barely there. You’re completely American. You’re the same as us.’
Except that wasn’t true, and, after that day, it never would be again. But her mother’s eyes were saucer-sized and her father’s shoulders were trembling, and they were both so desperate for Peggy to agree that, yes, everything was wonderful, that she did.
Her parents had clapped and grinned and declared that today wasn’t a park or a Planetarium day after all, but a day to go to Schrafft’s for butterscotch sundaes. They had swept Peggy out in a whirlwind of chatter that blocked her voice up for weeks. And then her father had been offered a post at Brown and the bustle of a move from New York to Rhode Island had whirled everything else away. Everyone was happy, everything was settled and secure in its place.
Except for Peggy, who was confused and couldn’t find a way to admit it. Who was still her parents’ daughter, and yet not. Who was suddenly German, and yet not.
Germany. It was a country she didn’t know, with a language she didn’t speak. A country which had started a war and lost it, and done terrible things to its people that no one spoke about except in hushed tones. A country which had spawned the monster-man Hitler and his goose-stepping Nazis. Whose dreams of world domination and master races had once, according to her father, nearly infected America. Peggy still had a vague memory of a march she had seen the tail end of as a small child in New York. Of being bundled away from shouting and from banners that bore the bent cross she later learned was a swastika. Germany came with such dark shadows, Peggy hadn’t dared ask how deep its claim ran on her.
I should have asked more, but I didn’t. They should have told me more, but they didn’t. They said it didn’t matter, so I made it not matter. And then she drops this bombshell on me, and it does.
Peggy picked up the photograph again. Why would Joan have given it to her, and at such a time, unless she wanted her to act on it? Unless it was some kind of permission to go looking? Peggy was certain her mother had intended to tell her more, that she had been struggling to do just that when Peggy made her stop talking because she couldn’t bear the pain of watching Joan agonise over every word. Perhaps stopping her had been the wrong thing to do – giving a key with no clue to the lock it fitted was a cruelty her mother wasn’t capable of – but it was too late to regret that decision now.
Maybe there’s something I’m missing.
She held up the picture to the window to better see the faces. There had to be some familiar feature, some trait that one of the two girls shared with Peggy, that would identify her. One of the girls was dark-haired and dark-eyed, which was promising, but then she was tall and Peggy definitely wasn’t. Pint-size was still a nickname that plagued her. The other girl had elegantly high cheekbones, which Peggy had been told she had too. One of the girls…
She gave up. Every feature she imagined forged a link could be a trick of the light, or a coincidence, or her own longing. Peggy turned the photograph over and scraped at the back with her nail. There were still no names, no date.
I might as well rip it up for all the good keeping it will do.
She flipped it over again, angry and frustrated, and started to pull at the slight rip in the middle. And then something caught her eye. The girl on the left had a brooch pinned to her collar: a ballerina with her skirt and arms spread out; it caught the light as if it was made out of rhinestones. It was beautiful, and unusual; and it was memorable. As something about the wearer’s face was suddenly memorable.
Peggy leaped up from the table and ran out of the kitchen, taking the stairs to her bedroom two at a time. Please God, her mother hadn’t thrown them all out. She whirled through drawers and under the bed, flinging her belongings everywhere. And then, finally, there they were, her film magazines, tidied away neatly into a box at the back of her closet. Peggy upended the carton and began digging, looking for the oldest editions, the copies of Movieland and Modern Screen dating from 1947 and 1948 that she had stored up her precious pocket money to buy.
‘There you are. I knew it!’
Peggy sat back on her heels, grinning at the cover shot. It was dated March 1947 and featured Louise Baker, one of Hollywood’s brightest stars at the time, and a screen legend now. Peggy knew every detail of the actress’s face. The scarlet-slicked trademark half-smile; the high curving cheekbones; the famous curls, tumbling like a treacle waterfall over one eye. Louise Baker at the height of her fame and utterly breathtaking. And wearing the ballerina brooch in the deep plunge of her gown, exactly as Peggy had remembered it.
It could be a coincidence; it could be a copy.
It could be. But that didn’t matter.
Taking the stairs more carefully this time, Peggy went back to the kitchen and lined up the magazine next to the photograph. The brooch might not be unique, but that crooked smile was. And that glance up under the lashes that was so casually done it was clearly deliberate.
Except it doesn’t make sense. I was adopted in Germany. If my mother is one of the girls, surely that’s where the photograph must have been taken. And Louise Baker isn’t German, which means it can’t be her.
But it was. Impossible, illogical, whatever words she chose to deny it, Peggy was certain: the girl on the left, looking straight into the camera as if she was daring Peggy to recognise her, wasn’t a stranger any more. She was a star.
‘UFA have requested you both this afternoon for screen tests. It’s most irregular. I explained that your classes aren’t completed yet, that you don’t have your diplomas, but Herr Reinhardt agreed to the request, so here we are.’
‘How much pain do you think she is in right now?’
Anna ignored Marika’s deliberately overloud whisper and smiled at the Reinhardt Drama Academy’s formidable secretary. Her attempt at friendliness wasn’t returned.
‘Take these. They are your attendance records and your proofs of good conduct.’ The secretary pushed two envelopes across the desk with the tips of her fingers. ‘You are expected at Babelsberg at 1.30 p.m. Do you require train passes for the journey?’
‘Goodness me, no. What a thought. Papa will send a car the minute I call him.’
Marika scooped up the letters and whirled Anna away before she was halfway through her That’s kind, but no thank you.
‘Seriously, Mari, do you always have to be mean to her?’
Marika rolled her eyes. ‘Shouldn’t the question be, why does she always have to be such a misery? Did you hear her? It’s hardly most irregular to get called up by the studios: what a nonsense. How long has she worked here? She knows the final-year productions are showcases, or why on earth would the casting directors attend those rather than all the other shows we’ve done in the last three years? You know what her problem is, don’t you? She’s jealous and bitter, and do you want to know why?’
‘Not really, but I imagine you’re going to tell me.’
‘Because no one would ever pay to watch her on a screen, and because she’s in love with Max and he never sees her. It’s all very tragic, but how is any of it my fault?’
‘Stop it.’ Anna couldn’t help but laugh at Marika’s unconvincingly innocent expression. ‘It’s totally your fault that she loathes you, and me by default. You needle her, you know you do. And when Herr Reinhardt is around, you’re shameless. You call him Max, as if the two of you are best friends, and the way you flirt with him in front of her is cruel. I’d be jealous and bitter.’
‘No you wouldn’t.’ Marika linked her arm through Anna’s and pulled her down the corridor. ‘I flirt with Eddy all the time and you never care a bit about that, do you?’
Oh but I do. You have no idea how much I do.
Not that Anna had any intention of admitting that to Marika; nor would it stop Marika if she did, although she knew how crazy Anna was about him. Eddy Hartmann was – as Anna had once describe
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