The stately clip-clop of a pair of fine horses, their breath forming white plumes in the cold air; the rattle and clang of street cars and trams; the rustle of silk dresses sweeping up circular staircases; the faint silvery chiming of crystal chandeliers – these were the sounds of her world. Gas lights being lit, the fire being laid, ladies whirling around the ballroom in bright brocades, silk and satin – these were the sights.
Sometimes Mama and Papa let her stay up to watch from the balcony overlooking the ballroom. Sometimes Franz let her give one of the horses an apple. Sometimes Fraulein swept her doll’s hair into a mass of waves and curls to match her own. Sometimes …
She soon realized that no one else saw or heard any of these things. She was alone in her world, living with strangers who didn’t even speak her language.
When she asked the Man and Woman about Mama and Papa, she was put to bed without supper. When she cried in her sleep and called out for Fraulein, the Woman slapped her awake. They took her to a clinic, where they had to fill out forms.
“Your daughter’s name?” “Cathy,” answered the Woman. “Katrin,” the little girl whispered.
“Address?” the woman at the desk asked. The Man said “23 Main St, Plainville,” but Katrin thought, “15 Ruddestrasse, Wien”.
When they left the clinic, Katrin broke free from the tightly held hands and ran into the street. She swerved among the honking automobiles, the Man and Woman running close behind her. Suddenly she heard the frightened neighing of a horse and saw it rear up, then crash down. She watched as the Man hovered over his bleeding wife. Rear up, crash down. People screaming, two bodies on the street, gasping their last breaths.
Then, gloriously, Mama and Papa alighting from the carriage, rushing to embrace her. “Liebchen,” Mama cried, covering her with kisses. “We’ve been looking everywhere for you.” Papa’s voice was like sunlight, like rescue, like home.
“Where have you been?”
But Katrin had already forgotten.