My diary had her name. I wrote letters to her every night, hid them under my bed and hoped that one day, the little book would reach her. It was the summer of 1995 and I didn’t know if she was still alive.
We grew up together, she lived just two floors above me, in the same cuboid grayish building with white balconies along the front side. The stairway to her place, like a stairway to heaven, had no walls and was open to all the eyes of the passengers.
We used to sit there on a blanket, I was Barbie and she was Ken. Jenna was older than me. When I was born she was the first to come to our place to fall in love with me. Her pale face and her blond hair had something exotic and passionate, only her blue lips and her heavy breath revealed that she was carrying something else deep inside her diseased heart.
She brought me little presents every day, went to the bakery with me, taught me how to read, provided me with the coolest comics and had patience with the complicated little Becky like nobody else. Every weekend we were selling our comics and books in our street and everybody who knew us would buy something. From the money we would buy new ones, better ones. We dreamt of having our own bookshop. She wanted me to be a writer, I wanted her to be a top model. She used to laugh over that, telling me she would faint after three steps on the catwalk. She could barely breathe. The disease was taking over, day by day she was worse.
We hid in the bathroom and she took off her shirt. Her chest was full of scars, among them a big one, dividing her in two halves. She hugged me, explained what was wrong with her little heart and told me her secrets. She dreamt of falling in love. There was a boy in our street she liked but wasn’t sure if this was real love. Every day we would daydream about him and her being together, we would draw her wedding dress and giggle, we would feel disgusted when we thought about the two of them kissing, we would stop our jokes and suddenly be quiet, knowing that this was far from reality.
She spent most of her days in a hospital. My father took care of her there and let me inside whenever possible. When she got her wheelchair we planned to destroy it and take the wheels to make two unicycles out of it. My mother would carry her in her arms when she came home, because she was too weak to move the wheels of the wheelchair. She would bring her to the stairway and put her down on our blanket where we could be alone and talk like we used to. She told me she had seen soldiers through the windows of the hospital. We made plans how she could get away in that wheelchair if they come to our street. We exchanged photos, just in case we would lose each other for a while. And we lost each other.
It was the summer of 1995 when I got a package from the Netherlands with her mother’s name on it. Inside of it there was a letter addressed to my parents, one of my books and the pictures that I had given to Jenna. Those few pictures are the only ones which I have from my childhood. She had written messages for me on the pictures’ back and I rolled under a blanket, touched her handwriting and smelled if the photos had her perfume on. My mother opened the letter and broke down in tears. Jenna had survived the war and the terror, only to die of a heart attack in Amsterdam, during her first days of freedom.
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