Chapter 2:

Chapter 2: Far From Home


The rain was pattering on the roof of the car. It was almost relaxing to listen to it while I looked out of the window. Trees, a few houses, but mainly meadows, grain and farmland, that was what I saw on the drive to my new home. My father told Alfred to drive me, he did me that favour at last. The rest of the day after that message I just sat in my room, played the violin and moped around. Only Alfred came to my room late in the evening, together with Paolo. They both tried to cheer me up, encouraged me and told me about their lives, how they were constantly forced to start over and what had developed from it.

"Moving is not always bad, you know," Paolo said to me. "If I hadn't ended up here, oh mio dio, in my village I wouldn't have got very far in my life. And now I cook for your father, one of the biggest entrepreneurs in Germany." Again his eyes began to shine, as when he served my father the meal.

Now he grabbed me by the shoulders. "You'll manage that too. And your father doesn't mean any harm, he just wants to afford you a good life, you know?"

"Yeah yeah, I know," I replied to what my father was already trying to tell me too, but nothing made this better. Nothing at all.

Paolo then disappeared after a while, leaving only Alfred in my room. Not saying a word, he stood against the wall and folded his hands behind his back. It seemed as if he was waiting for an order, as if I should order him to speak to me. But I said nothing, and so we spent some time together in silence.

"I have told you everything I could say, young sir". Alfred broke the silence with these words. "We will leave tomorrow morning. I will provide you with your luggage, you don't need to do anything".

Now I could no longer control myself, and began to cry terribly. His words were not even of an emotional nature, but I could no longer withstand all that. This was the last straw that broke the camel's back. Alfred sensed my sadness, and although I hid my tears, he came back to sit beside me on the bed. I turned my head away in shame, I didn't want him, the one I had a closer bond with than my father, to see me like this.

"Young sir, this does not suit you. You are just not yourself today," Alfred gave me to understand as he held out a handkerchief to me without much gesture. I took it without a word and wiped away my tears. Looking at him afterwards, I realised how powerless I really was. There was much talk of freedom after the war was over, but where was my freedom? When would what I wanted come true, and nothing else?

"My young master, we are almost there. Prepare yourself in advance". Mentally back in reality, my gaze wandered ahead. The rain in its strength now made visibility impossible, not even the windscreen wipers were of any help any more. I felt like that rain coming down: falling, on hard ground, uncertain where I would land.

Before I knew it, we stopped; the abrupt braking caused a soft squeaking. I couldn't see anything clearly through the rain, but I thought I saw the silhouette of a gate. Wait. A man was standing there too. Yes, I could see it a little better now, the rain was finally letting up. The shadow that had just been standing in front of the gate strolled towards us and walked to the left side of the car.

Knock, knock. Alfred rolled down the window and the man, a cigarette in his mouth, stuck his head into the car. He was maybe in his early 30s, looked quite tall and wore an army cap; a Swiss army cap. Father brought me one of these after one of his trips, but I couldn't really do anything with it. It was too big for me anyway. But where did the man get one like that?

"Where do ‘ya wanna go? We don't really expect guests on days like this, they're only allowed to come at the weekend." He turned his head towards me. "And what about you, my friend?" A little perplexed, I tried to search for a suitable answer in my head.

"Oh, I'm quite aware of that," Alfred spoke to the guard before I got a chance to say anything. It wasn't as if I would have liked to speak, but being ignored didn't suit me either. It made me a little indignant.

"A notice, here, you see. Today the young gentleman will become a resident of this house, so treat him well, all right?" The guard looked at the sheet without emotion, and slipped it back to Alfred.

"Of course, my lord, we'll take good care of him". A broad smile graced the face of the ominous man I didn't know what to make of. He pulled his head back, waved us through and so we drove on.

"Have a nice stay, oh my master," he said as we passed him and made a deep bow. So if all the people here were like that, then this could truly be a funny time. Crazy guy.

"Gentlemen, I would like to welcome you to our institution, the Richard Strauss Boarding School". In the meantime, we arrived in a forecourt of the school and got out of the car to be greeted by a man who wore a suit just as fine as Alfred's. But he had to be even older than Alfred, because the efforts of his life were reflected in the countless wrinkles on his face. It made him look like one walking endeavor. Standing at attention, he resembled a war veteran, only the uniform and all the medals were missing. A tough man through and through, you could tell.

"If you would follow me, I will accompany you to the director. He will explain the further procedure to you”. Alfred and I went after him, trotting a little. I wasn't in too much of a mood, but that had been clear to me from the start. However, I had promised myself not to make my unwillingness known in the way I probably did with my attitude; it signalled to the bystanders and to me that my situation was one of misery, and that in turn would be an admission to me that I had accepted my situation as bad and wrong. A confusing story for my head.

"Had I misspoken?" The nameless veteran stopped and looked slowly over his shoulder. "I said that you should follow me, Mr. Schäfer, and only you. The butler you are dragging around with you is of no use from here on." Plainly continuing on his way, he did not even wait for my reaction.

Silently, Alfred's eyes and mine crossed. "Well, I guess this is our farewell now, young sir". Stopping right next to me, he looked at me exactly as he had when he reprimanded me about my father. That stern, yet kind look. Those tired, yet so full of experience eyes. That smile. That aura. That posture. At that moment I realised the importance Alfred had for me on my life's journey. All the decisions I made, I made them because of the wisdom he gave me. The way I lived and tried to walk upright through my life, he taught me all this. Alfred was more than a butler; he was my friend. My best, better than Georg and all the others. It was still too late. One last hug, one last 'bye' and the car rolling over the gravel, Alfred was gone. Now I had lost even the last person who believed in me. Lisa. Georg. Paolo. Alfred. They were all gone, scattered in the winds, and I certainly wouldn't see them again so soon. What a cruel life that was.

"Well, don't just stand there, lad, and come with me," the old man yelped at me. His tone had changed immediately after Alfred had disappeared, he probably thought it didn't matter how I was spoken to any more. I had not yet recovered mentally from this farewell, it happened too abruptly.

"Discipline is the first commandment here, remember that, boy. If someone tells you to do something, you do it. If someone says run, you run. And if someone says keep quiet, you keep quiet".

"Of course, I understood that".

"Good, it's better for you and for everyone else".

Strict, cold, hard. A man to fear.

"Up here, come on". After walking through a small park we entered a hall filled by two huge spiral staircases, one on each side. Built of dark wood, they made a time-honoured impression, the tradition and spirits of past generations were palpable. In general, the hall was quite plain, but the spiral staircases and the chandelier hung in the middle made a stylish impression; I was truly amazed.

"Down the corridor and then the last door on the right, that's the director's office," the nameless guy pointed to a door that was on the first floor. Trotting after him, I went up the left-hand spiral staircase, after which a corridor with railings and a view of the hall followed. Sauntering ahead of me, 'No Name' suddenly stopped and looked at me with his usual uncaring gaze.

"Before we go in, let me tell you something. You thought I was tough, didn't you?" He grinned. "But the headmaster. Well, let's say he's a different calibre altogether. So, one misstep and that's it for you, boy." Did I see something like fear in his eyes? The man I thought was something unpredictable just a few seconds ago? I had to be wrong, yes, for sure.

"Well then, shall we?" He knocked on the door, twice. A short "In!" echoed as a reply from inside and Mr. Nameless opened the door. Standing behind him, my eyes immediately caught a man standing in front of a bookshelf with his back turned to us. I could not make out what he was reading, but it was a rather thick book. His posture reminded me of that of Mr. Nameless, but when he turned around and greeted me with a "There you are at last", so annoyed, so bitter, so upset, from then on I understood the character of this director. His face covered with a broad scar, several rifles and medals hanging on the wall, a true war veteran stood in front of me who looked as if he wanted to tear one of these weapons off the wall and shoot me in the head without hesitation.

"Where have you both been?" The headmaster ran to his desk, visibly in a hurry. "Class has already started and you two were still having a tea party, or what?"

"I dec..."

"Save your breath. Mr. Schäfer is just supposed to be on time, but even that seems like too big a task for you, Mr. Schick! Damn you!"

Mr. Schick, so that was his name. And that Mr. Schick made such an intimidated impression that he only looked at the floor and didn't even bring up the idea of saying anything.

"And you...welcome to our boarding school. I am Mr. Reiss, the headmaster."

"Thank you..." I preferred to spare words too, every word too much could cost me my life. As far as I was concerned, I had a very bad feeling about him.

"Come here," the man snapped at me. I slowly stepped forward and approached his desk, which was completely tidy and sorted to the last corner. Probably an old soldier's habit. In general, Mr. Reiss' room was totally regulated and orderly; on one side his books, on the other side shotguns, sniper rifles, badges and stuffed animal heads, and at the back in the middle his desk.

"This is a special form, you still have to sign it. It's a confirmation of receipt for the files".

"But all the forms have already been filled in, that's what I was told..."

His eyes darkened further, clearly conveying the message "Did I tell you to answer, boy!?" without him uttering a word. No talking back, then; an important lesson. Quickly I grabbed the form, hoping he wasn't going to make another attempt on my life. Signed it, put it on the desk. Phew.

"Once again, thank you for allowing me to live in this wonderful school, I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart," I said as I took a bow like the guard from earlier, but not meant ironically here.

"Now go or you'll be late, and we don't want that, do we Mr. Schick?" The director squinted at my companion in the corner of his eye, who replied with a "Of course, I'll take care of it". He also pulled me directly by the arm and called out, "Well, we have to go. Have a nice day!" Lingering at the desk, Mr. Reiss took off his glasses, which he had been wearing until just now, and eyed me from a distance as I strode out the door. His eyes still looked as if they were filled with anger, but there was something controlled about them, like the director himself. Undefinable.

"Are you crazy, you moron?" Stepping out of the room, Mr. Schick was now scolding me. He told me why my behaviour was fundamentally wrong and angrily asked why I had asked the director such a stupid question, and so on. But in truth it was he who was afraid, I wasn't wrong after all. Mr. Reiss was what Mr. Schick was perishing from, which is perhaps why he himself was as gruff as Mr. Reiss.

"And hurry up, Mr. Reiss will tear my head off if you turn up any later than you are anyway". The tirade was suddenly over, I felt a little exhausted and left with Mr. Schick. I knew where my class was well in advance, but I still didn't know the way. Once through the park, then to the right, where I passed a huge marble archway, I remembered that. But there it was, a huge building complex with several floors and spreading out in several directions, in which I would certainly have got lost without more precise instructions. Instead, however, I was accompanied by Mr. Schick, who jogged up the few steps to the entrance with unexpected energy and placed both hands on the apparently heavy iron door, the entrance to the school. His back was turned to me; from behind, one could almost assume he was assuming the position of a western hero, ready to fire.

"So, ready for the new life?" Opening the door, he spoke these words and the truth opened up to me, which I could accept from now on. A new chapter. A new story. A new life.