Tommy was secretly delighted that he no longer had to share a room.
By age 12, practicing secretly on animals at his grandfather’s farm, Ulfred had already mastered how to inflict the greatest amount of pain for the longest time as possible, an envied skill that would earn him several rank advancements in Auschwitz.
At that moment, something snapped inside Nancy.
She had participated, though reluctantly, in the ritual for the previous three seasons upon reaching the age of initiation.
This year, she watched in quiet disbelief as the women of the clan strained and twisted, tongues groping, necks outstretched, hands religiously tucked behind their backs.
“This grotesque ceremony, this absurd display, this comical superstition will bring rain to the orchards?” she laughed to herself. Strong though she was, faith — at least, according to the Fathers — was not her strong point.
The full weight of ostracized years settled upon her aching shoulders like leaden clouds.
Black gloom turned to white fury, and in an impassioned moment of clashing, culminated, sweating and bleeding emotion she forced her trained arm forward to grasp the dangling apple — an expressly forbidden act — and fiercely plunge her teeth into the flesh.
And waited for the gasps and shudders.
She was shocked when Joyce giggled and grabbed her own, but floored when Barbara — sullen, dour, obedient Barbara of the infamous black wardrobe — slowly, deliberately, defiantly defiled hers.
Strangely, there were no formal repercussions that night. But when rain did not fall that season, stones rained upon the three outcasts.
Charlie was electrified by the energy. He gripped two nickels fiercely in his sweating palm, his hand shoved deep inside his pocket. Overjoyed, his body quivered with anticipation like a horse prancing in a stall before a race.
He shoved and strained to see past the hoods of the carnival workers, desperately trying to catch sight of the rides and flashing lights.
They walked a few blocks before he realized there would be no rides for children.