Book Review: Boardroom, Bedroom by Gemma Snow
Six months later…
Kurt stepped from his family’s doorway and crossed Apostel-Paulus-Straße before entering the church courtyard. It was a shortcut, true, but he really just liked the walk through the little bit of nature. Amidst the old trees, the red-brick church rose high; made even higher by the towering copper steeples. They had long turned green as the church endured season after season, but his parents could still remember when they shone brightly.
“History…” his father said, “Watching the steeples turn, is like watching what was once new, become history.”
Kurt was sure that family is what made them part of history. The von Schönberg family had a rich legacy in the area. They were respected and dependable, though the Weimar Constitution changed everything. The area they lived in retained the name Schönberg, but the fallout from the Great War caused changes to come to the most remote parts of Germany. The nobility were stripped of their titles, and in some cases, their names.
Now the von Schneider family, they retained a large piece of property in the heart of Berlin. The garment factories and warehouses survived the war, somehow. But, Kurt’s family almost didn’t. His mother, who was once the life of the party and a most gracious, noblewoman, was left frayed and disheartened with the death of her oldest son. The German leadership said that the war was necessary, but that they just couldn’t hold out. But, in the last days of the war when Kurt’s brother was killed, it was believed that the German government had deceived them. The Countess von Schönberg was left a bitter, angry woman.
After all that, Kurt was left with the heavy burden of being the next head of their own small empire. What were once his brother’s duties now fell to him. Giving up his dream of becoming a great architect, he set his mind to becoming a great son.
Shaking himself from his daydream, he covered the distance through the courtyard quickly. His father, a proud and strict man, would never let it down if he were late to work. The bus ride to their Tiergarten warehouse was quick, but things had started to change. Germany was in financial trouble, and times were hard for many. The Chancellor had given people hope, a purpose, but when the Reichstag burned, the demeanor of a whole nation shifted.
Using the powers granted him, Hitler rounded up anyone associated with the communist party. One day, a coworker and good friend of Kurt’s was taken in for questioning. While Kurt was certain that the friend had no political aims, he couldn’t be certain. So, when he returned to work a week later covered in bruises and obviously shaken, no one said anything. That’s how it went on. People would dis- and reappear.
Kurt was uncomfortable at the thought. It even made him angry. But, more than that, it made him nervous. If it started with the communists, it would move on to others as well, and he had his own secrets to keep. Looking to the window and into the reflection there, Kurt inspected his features. There were no outward signs, no writing on his forehead, or rouge on his cheeks. But, the thought that one day there would be questions, “Why aren’t you married? Why do you have no children?” made his palms start to sweat and head ache.
Then he smiled. The night before had been fun. Aside from all the fear, was the excitement. He’d made his way to Werner’s after work. He spent the next hours sharing drinks and laughs with his closest friend. The walk to The Eldorado was exhilarating. The feeling as people stared was as intoxicating as the feeling of silk on his legs was luxurious. The emerald green gown fit him well and was exactly what he’d hoped he’d wear his first time to this club. One couldn’t just waltz up and expect to see Marlene Dietrich. For his birthday a few months ago, Werner had surprised Kurt with his own wig. It was more expensive than Werner could afford, but it was real, and it was his.
They drank and danced with the elite of the Berlin underworld. As it always was, men would float in and out of conversation. There was everything from women as men to men as women, to men who were obviously men. Though many had offered to take him home, Kurt shied away and left alone like he always did. After transforming back into a von Schneider, he made his way to the family home.
The two parts of himself were always at war, and no matter how much he tried, he couldn’t think of how he could ever reconcile them. With a deep sigh, he looked through the window instead of the reflection in it as the large warehouse came into view. For the moment, he locked away that side of himself and pulled the string to signal his stop.
Dieses Tagebuch bekam ich von meiner Mutter. Es macht nur Sinn, dass ich es benutze. It was Friday yesterday, and the club was full. They were too busy getting drunk to notice us, though. Walking amongst them, we are like a sideshow from the carnivals. We sit at the table in the corner and they all look, but don’t approach anymore. Not since the brownshirts started with their raids. They all just drink and wait for the night where they burst through the door. I’m not convinced that some of the people there aren’t part of the police.
I managed to sneak my mother’s dress back into her closet this morning before she woke. Some of the other boys think I should have my own, by now. But, there’s too great a risk that my family would find it.
There was one man last night. Tall and broad-shouldered, his features were hard and beautiful. We crossed eyes several times, but I couldn’t tell if the look on his face was interest or disgust. Probably the latter. Beneath his thick eyebrows, his deep-set eyes held me in my seat while he finished the last of his beer. Then, he simply stood and walked out.
Things used to be so different, freer. I could walk from our home to anywhere in town as I was, dress and hair, and no one would look twice. But, with the socialists rising in power, things are worse.
On my way to work yesterday, one of the police just attacked a man on the sidewalk. Only walking to work, I’m guessing. Within seconds all that was left where he stood were his briefcase and some blood from his nose. Everyone just watched. We knew that if we interfered, we’d be taken just like him. Word had spread about the national socialists. They have ideas about what is right and wrong.
We discussed it last night, some of my friends think they will go into hiding soon. Not actual hiding. Just that they would stop coming out at night. It’s too dangerous they think. But this is who I am, and I won’t stop it for anyone. My features lend more to my nightly activities anyhow. Most days, people think I’m a woman in a suit. If only they knew. I tried to be different; more like that man in the club. It was no use.
Time to begin the day. Saturday chores are waiting.