Here it is. The last episode of Atc II.
As I’ve mentioned before, I will pause the publication of The Frozen Maze in April, because of the AtoZ Challenge. That’s always a crazy time for this blog, and I prefer to keep things as streamlined as possible. I’ve decided just today to skip the Gang Roundup too.
So, usual programs will start again in May, but I hope you’ll enjoy the challenge too.
My first AtoZ Challenge was also about the 1920s. Back in 2015, my interest focused on America, the Jazz Age and Prohibition. This new challenge will be very different. It will be about everyday life above all, and I’ll try to be as global as possible.
I’ve already learned a lot of things I knew very little about, so I hope you’ll find something new to discover, even if you read my blog every now and then.
I hope you’ll enjoy this episode of The Frozen Maze and you’ll be back in May. Act III will be entirely set in Schneedorf. There will be many new characters and many revelations.
See you soon – maybe on the AtoZ posts!
A Snow White retelling set in 1920s Germany
Watching the Game
It was really very peculiar, Grete thought as she sat in one of the armchairs in the library. How come that Lotte showed such interest in Schneezwerg?
She and Florian occupied her favourite couch. The fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. At the small bar cabinet, Ernst was mixing a cocktail. He brought them to them in crystal tumblers, set them on the coffee table, bowed slightly and went away at Grete’s nod.
Florian leaned over and took two glasses, offering one to Lotte. She smiled languidly, the same way she did in her films.
Grete nursed her own cocktail. She had known both of them for some time now. Not quite a year, but close. She had met them many times at different social meetings before Lotte became interested in what Grete did with her business and enthused about the idea of the beauty resort more than anyone else. Grete had indeed found that quite strange. All the people she had talked to had been more interested in projects happening in Berlin rather than in a faraway, almost secluded place close to the Black Forest. Grete’s experience was that peculiar projects were often the more rewarding and Lotte was no doubt a daring woman. Still, why all this overwhelming interest?
Now Lotte was again talking about the maze.
The maze. Again.
“Really, Grete,” Lotte was saying, twirling an olive inside her martini. “You could take down the parts more damaged and rebuild them, with new plants and new variety. Why take it all down? It’s a beautiful place.”
“It once was,” Grete said, suppressing her annoyance, for the sake of Schneezwerg. “But now nobody takes care of it anymore. No one knows—”
She stopped before she said too much. That was none of Lotte’s business.
“It’s a thing of the past,” she concluded, swatting the matter away.
“I see,” Lotte said, swirling the olive in her glass, thoughtful. Then she asked, “And when do you plan to take it down?”
Grete arched her eyebrows. And now, what would she care?
Lotte was quick to smile. She chuckled, even, when Grete didn’t answer. But she was studying her. Lotte was observing her. And when she realised Grete was observing her back, she dropped her gaze on the cocktail she was hardly drinking.
“Sorry,” Lotte said. “I’m just fascinated with the place.” She thought one moment. “Would you consider selling it to me?”
Grete sat unmoving. She stared at Lotte. Then she moved her gaze to Florian when she moved, somewhat uncomfortably.
“Why would you buy a dead thing?” Grete asked.
“It isn’t dead,” Florian said.
Lotte shot a murder look at him.
“Maybe I can revive it,” she said.
Florian looked away. Grete was almost sure he had paled.
Right, she thought, looking from one to the other. What game are we playing, here?
Definitely something was going on that Grete could not pin down, but which she didn’t like. For some reason, she again looked at Florian, even if he was being as unobtrusive as a man could possibly be. What was it about him that didn’t quite add up?
Lotte was about to speak again when someone cleared her voice from the door.
Dagmar stood there, her hand on the handle, looking at Grete in askance.
“Please, excuse me,” Grete said, standing and placing her glass on the table. “I’ll be right back.”
She greeted Dagmar with a low voice. “What’s happening, sister?” The door was far enough from the armchairs and couch for them to have a private conversation.
“Lots of unpleasant things,” Dagmar answered likewise quietly, shooting a grim glance at the two sitting on the couch.
Grete didn’t turn. “I know you don’t like this, Dagmar,” she said, “but please I am trying to do what’s best for Schneezwerg, whether you believe it or not.”
Dagmar dragged her eye away from the couple. “I believe you,” she said, and Grete couldn’t entirely hide her surprise. “But are you sure there is no other way? No other path?”
Grete did not like her choice of words. At all.
“Would you prefer to lose Schneezwerg just to go against my suggestions?” she snapped.
Dagmar stared at her, just bit paler, and Grete regretted her words.
“That’s what will happen, Dagmar,” she said. “I’m sorry, but surely you know it.”
“I know that I won’t lose my home, just to keep a house standing.”
The exchange a long gaze. There was steel in Dagmar’s eyes. Grete had never realised, not really until now, how much Dagmar looked like her brother. Her heart shrunk in her chest.
“Anyway, I didn’t come to discuss this,” Darmar went on more briskly. “Ingeborg and I are going to the dorf, later today.”
Grete’s shoulders stiffened. “And?”
“We may stay for the night. It’s Allerseelen Nacht.”
Grete physically felt a mask slid down on her face.
“I would normally take Hannah and Elsie back to the dorf myself at night,” Dagmar went on, “but there’s no way I can drive four people in Julian’s car.” Grete squared her shoulders at her husband’s name. “I just wanted to ask you if you could send one of yours and get them there. They will want to attend.”
A long, uneasy silence.
“Yes, of course.” Grete started to turn.
“Sister!” Dagmar grabbed her arm. “Are you sure you don’t want to come?”
“I am definitely absolutely sure,” Grete answered without hesitation, though her heart beat a bit faster and she felt naked in front of Dagmar softened eyes.
“It will be very simple,” Dagmar dared to add, though she must know there was nothing she could say that would change Grete’s mind. “A simple mass. We’ll visit the graveyard, and then we’ll gather and remember.”
“I know you mean well, Dagmar,” Grete said, and it came out rougher than she had meant. “But I don’t need this kind of things. I’ve come to terms with the war long ago.” Which was a stupid thing to say to Dagmar, who of course knew a lot better. But in a way, Grete needed to tell that to herself, more than to her sister-in-law.
Dagmar nodded and only added, “Thanks for your help, anyway.” But she didn’t move away. She moved her attention back to Lotte and Florian and frowned.
How much had she heard?
“Florian went to the maze, this morning,” she said.
“Inge saw him from the window and followed him. He came as far as the third dwarf.”
Grete stood with her head empty. She then looked at the couple by the fire. While Lotte had stood and was now idling browsing through the books on the shelves, Florian was looking in their direction. He soon looked away.
“Why did he go there?” Grete asked in a whisper.
Dagmar shook her head slowly. “I don’t know. But you might not be the only one with a plan in their mind.”
In the photo Château de Chenonceau photographer unknown (from Instagram @francefr)