Peter and the other Jewish refugees filed into the great room of the Dovercourt dining hall. The volunteers lined them up like they were preparing for an auction of children.
Peter stood awkwardly behind Stephen and Hans, trying to avoid the onslaught of eager foster parents hunting for a child to take home. Their stares made him feel uncomfortable. It was as if they were examining him for imperfections, and he knew he had many. He was sure they could see them all. It was too much to endure, so he hid.
Peter didn’t really want to leave Dovercourt. Although it was often cold and the food wasn’t very good, he enjoyed watching the boys play football. Dovercourt wasn’t bad. He had Hans and Stephen, and they made him laugh. His plan was to stay at Dovercourt until he could rescue Becca. Then they would find a place together.
The foster parents cruised the crowd and picked the smallest children, as Peter peered from his hiding place behind Hans and Stephen. He wanted this to be over, so he could go back to his cabin and read A Tale of Two Cities. He’d reached the part about the Defarges leading a band of revolutionaries using the code name of Jacques, or in German, Johan. That would be his code name, his new identity in England, Peter thought, Johan. Maybe he could leave the old Peter behind. There wasn’t much left of him anyway.
A squat, crusty man in farmer’s clothes hurried across the dining hall. He was wiping his rough hands on his pants, making a dust trail behind him. A plump woman scuttled and huffed behind him, her weathered cheeks rosy. They made a beeline for Hans and Stephen.
Peter’s stomach clenched tighter. Hans and Stephen couldn’t leave. What would he do without the entertainment of their football matches with the English boys? They were all he had left of his connection to home.
The man pointed his short, stubby finger at Hans and said, “You!” His voice sounded raspy and deep, like a storyteller mimicking a troll in a children’s fairy tale.
“Me?” Hans replied with a face of horror.
“No! The other one!” the man said.
“Me?” Stephen asked, as he gripped Hans’s elbow.
The woman stepped up. “No! The little one. You two couldn’t fit in the attic.” Her voice was shrill and grating.
Hans and Peter stepped aside, and Peter was fully exposed.
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