"Really, Charles, we must stop meeting like this."
Erik didn’t even look up from the corner of his cell as he heard the tell-tale cut of the plastic polymer doors slide open behind him.
"You’ve hardly given me much choice, have you?"
Erik often wondered how Charles was constantly able to gain access to his cell. He had settled on the idea that he was tampering with the security, although the very notion sounded distinctly unlike his moral friend, even Erik had to admit that from time to time and wherever he himself was concerned, Charles could possess quite a flare for the dramatic.
Erik turned to face his friend who was wheeling himself into his cell. There was a white box settled on his lap that Erik could not help but stare curiously at. “Gifts is it? Honestly, Charles, you hardly need to bribe me for my help. Whatever do you need?”
Charles had a wry smile on his haggard features. He was becoming so gaunt. And all this time Erik thought he was the one who was supposed to be the prisoner. “This gift comes without a price, my friend,” Charles held the present out, “A belated Hanukkah gift.”
Finally deigning to stand, Erik strode over to Charles and took the box from his hands. “I may be incarcerated, but I am hardly ignorant. It’s January the 27th by my count.”
Charles shrugged, “A very belated Hanukkah gift then. Do open it Erik.”
Raising an eyebrow at Charles’ impatience Erik flipped over the lid, a quizzical expression crossing over his features. “Rugelach?”
"There should be a note as well—ah, you have it."
Erik set the box down by his feet as he pulled at a cream colored envelope. As he plucked at the opening to get at the contents within he could smell the delicate scent of powdered sugar and cinnamon along the envelope’s edge.
"Read it aloud, if you would," Charles asked, his voice calm, almost melancholic.
Erik obliged, a knot growing in the pit of his stomach as he began the letter.
You do not know me, nor are we likely to ever cross paths, but you knew my mother, Ruchel Strausberg. She told me stories about the little boy in the camps at Auschwitz who managed to sneak extra rations for so many and found a gap between the wire fences to escape….”
Erik found himself sitting down on the floor of his cell once again, letter clutched tight in his hand. His knuckles turning white.
"My mother is still in good health, and between us and my two brothers we run a bakery in the lower east side. My mother still speaks of you, she pulls the newspaper clippings of you and keeps them on the wall of the shop. Many of our customers do not approve, but we do not believe you are guilty.
Mother says you are Ubermensch. Your friend saw the pictures and came in to talk to us. My mother made the rugelach herself. She hopes it reminds you of home.
Thank you, herr Lehnsherr, our family would not be here today without you.
…it is signed Tzietal Strausberg.”
There was total silence as Erik sat against the wall, his head hanging down. “Wait,” he croaked. “there is more,” he noticed on the back of the letter.
"P.S: I write where my mother cannot see, but I know now how the fence in the camp managed to break enough to allow so many to flee. You made the gap in the wires. You saved my family and hundreds more. My family believed in you then as we believe in you now. Do not lose hope. So many of us still stand with you."
Charles nodded at the postscript a thin smile playing about his features. “Remarkable,” he said. “Do you recall the young lady’s mother?”
"I remember all their names. And faces. All of them. Everything that I have ever done was to ensure there would not be more names to remember still."
"Do you say this to convince me or yourself, my friend?" Charles wheeled over to Erik and placed a hand upon his shoulder.
"Thank you for the gift, Charles. You may go now." Erik flinched out of his friend’s grasp.
Charles sighed and Erik felt is breath at the side of his neck. The space between them filled a chasm. The envelope was still in his hands keeping him grounded on one side of the divide.
"As you wish," Charles said at last. Erik could feel him at the edge of his mind wanting to enter and say the things that could not be spoken. He could feel the words creeping into his skull, wounding with every silent emphasis.
That stopped him.
Erik caught him with an iron stare. “I was not strong enough to save my people. I will not fail our own.”
There was that sad smile again.
"Nor will I, my friend. Nor will I.