Staff officers poured in, and then came Goering himself with Paschinger still beside him. He greeted the staff of the CC by touching his glittering marshal’s baton to the peak of his cap. He was smiling and nodding, and then he caught sight of the Helferinnen. “Ah, so you have some of our charming, brave Helferinnen here! How are they working out?”
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsmarschall. Very well, so far. May I introduce the Herr Reichsmarschall?” Jako led Goering directly to Klaudia.
There she stood, rigidly at attention, hardly daring to breathe. What could be a better sign of Jako’s good intentions than the fact that he brought the Reichsmarshall himself over to introduce him to her? She sucked in her stomach and kept her chin up; she wanted to do Jako proud. “This here is Klaudia von Richthofen.”
“Ah ha!” Goering was delighted. “I didn’t realise Wolfram had a niece! How do you like it here, Fräulein? Are my young eagles treating you properly?”
Klaudia couldn’t help smiling. “Jawohl, Herr Reichsmarschall.”
“Good, good. Glad to hear it.” Already Goering was moving on. Turning away from Klaudia and addressing Jako, he remarked, “Seeing these lovely girls reminds me of your own charming wife, Jako. How is she doing these days?”
“In her seventh month now, Herr Reichsmarshall,” Jako answered happily, his back to Klaudia as if she didn’t exist.
“Ha!” Goering laughed approvingly. “A Christmas leave baby.”
“Jawohl, Herr Reichsmarshall,” Jako agreed, “and I hope we will have tamed the English lion in time for me to be with her at the birth.”
“Certainly, certainly,” Goering agreed as they moved away. Klaudia wanted to scream – or just fade away into nothingness. He was married. He had been married the whole time. Not once, not even for a moment, had his intentions been honourable. He had used her. That was all. Used her like a common whore! Rosa had been right about him the whole time. She couldn’t cope with the implications. She was ruined! Absolutely ruined. She could never go home and face her parents.
A sharp order from Schneider brought her back to the present. Jako and Goering were gone. She had work to do. Work. That was all that was left to her now, her identity as a Luftwaffehelferin. She was ruined socially. No man would ever marry her. A message was going in over her earphones. She had to concentrate, but her insides were tied in knots.
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