Vienna, October 20, 1941
Today was Celia’s tenth birthday. This was not how she’d expected to celebrate it. She felt the silver chain around her neck, the cat charm just above her heart. Mama had given her the charm, and now it was getting warmer and the cat’s eyes were glowing green.
“I love you Mama…”
Max scrambled out of her arms and gazed up at her, his yellow eyes burning with understanding. Celia didn’t understand. What was happening? Where were they taking her family? Little Sara was crying. Her mama clutched her to her breast as they followed the Gestapo soldiers out of their home on Grosse Spielgasse.
Still, Celia didn’t understand. She tried to follow them. No, Max put a paw on hers. His brown tabby fur felt warm and urgent on her silver grey paw. How? How had she changed so fast? She remembered the sensation, her body contracting, as if she was shrinking away, becoming invisible to the Nazi soldiers. The silver cat charm had glowed. Its eyes had shone green like emeralds and the warmth of the charm had permeated her body. She looked at Max. He was a brown tabby with amber eyes, and she was a small silky grey cat. No, not grey, silver, her coat was the color of argentum.
“We have to go,” said Max, after the soldiers and Jews had left on the truck. How could she hear his voice? How could she communicate with a cat? “Quickly Celia, there’s no time to waste.”
He pushed her out of the house and into the cobble streets. The sun was setting, a warm red glow. The streets were almost peaceful. These buildings that just hours before had housed the last few Jews of Vienna now lay empty. Celia felt tears form in her eyes. Mama, would she ever see her mama again?
Around her neck hung the silver chain. The cat charm comforted her. Max beckoned her forward, and she followed him through the twisted streets of the neighborhood. He seemed to understand where they needed to go. And then without warning, he ran and she struggled to keep up with him. Out of the corner of her eye she saw them, two young soldiers standing on the corner of the street, guns in their hands. One young man laughed to his friend as the cats ran past. He raised his rifle, aimed, and fired. Celia cringed as a yowl rang out through the air.
“Max, oh Max!” She rushed to his side. There was blood oozing out of a bullet hole in his hind leg, and his breathing was labored.
“Go on Celia. Go to the warehouse, they’ll help you,” he said.
“No,” she replied. “I’m not going to leave you.
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