They read through the early hours of morning, circling and writing the words she did not comprehend and turning the pages toward daylight. A few times, Papa nearly slept, succumbing to the itchy fatigue in his eyes and the wilting of his head. Liesel caught him out on each occasion, but she had neither the selflessness to allow him to sleep nor the hide to be offended. She was a girl with a mountain to climb.
When her birthday came around, there was no gift…. Liesel didn’t mind. She didn’t whine or moan or stamp her feet. She simply swallowed the disappointment and decided on one calculated risk—a present to herself. She would gather all of the accrued letters to her mother, stuff them into one envelope, and use just a tiny portion of the washing and ironing money to mail it. Then, of course, she would take the Watschen, most likely in the kitchen, and she would not make a sound.
Molching, like the rest of Germany, was in the grip of preparing for Hitler’s birthday. This particular year, with the development of the war and Hitler’s current victorious position, the Nazi partisans of Molching wanted the celebration to be especially befitting. There would be a parade. Marching. Music. Singing. There would be a fire.
The heat was still strong enough to warm her when she stood at the foot of the ash heap. When she reached her hand in, she was bitten, but on the second attempt, she made sure she was fast enough. She latched on to the closest of the books. It was hot, but it was also wet, burned only at the edges, but otherwise unhurt.