Eldric lost a day of his life, and it happened to be his seventeenth birthday. His eyelids felt like they weighed a dozen tonnes, as if he had risen from six feet under. His adolescent frame seemed shattered, and he remembered running for at least a mile before collapsing into bed.
But the sleep didn't linger. The unwelcome drizzle from outside swept in through the edges of the wooden window, tapping onto Eldric's weary bones. It carried the essence of an inclement snowstorm. Eldric was compelled to open his eyes. He snapped awake, swung his legs off the bed, and hurried to check the calendar. On the inked, printed surface, his eyes were riveted on the Acht Marsch box. There was no mark on the date, just like for the whole month of February, except for two dates. Despite turning seventeen, he realized he had missed his own birthday.
He approached the window for a quick view of the rain-soaked pavement in the small town of Vielist. He shot a petulant look at the persistent drizzle, which seemed resolute in drenching anyone in its path. Pedestrians didn't seem to mind being soaked in the first icy smoke of the season, but Eldric cared, especially with his throbbing headache. His gaze then shifted to his unworn blue uniform, complete with the polished badge intricately embroidered with "Patriotische Schule der Wölfe."
He moved towards the uniform, running his cold fingers over the fabric in an attempt to feel something. It still looked new, having only been a few steps away. However, an unpleasant smell tickled his sensitive nose—the smell of his own sweat. Eldric's brows furrowed, and he drew in tightly. A discontented assumption stirred within the strong, inclement breeze. The wind rustled through the archaic brick room. He had contemplated every conceivable outcome, but, in short, it remained perplexing.
He placed the blue uniform back in its spot. Soon after breakfast, he descended the metallic stairs attached to the terraced building. The jade t-shirt and the dull pullover sweater on top of it both looked several weeks old. The odour had become familiar to Eldric. He descended the metallic stairs attached to the terraced building. The jade t-shirt and the dull pullover sweater on top of it both looked several weeks old. The odor had become part of Eldric's existence. Eldric trudged through the heavy snow, as the cloud that had roared arrogantly from his window retreated. The towering Norway spruce shivered in the chill wind. Sunshine accompanied Eldric as he reached Ruhiges Café.
"Oh, dear Eldric!" A raspy voice startled Eldric from behind. "You came back!" Eldric turned hastily. His eyebrows narrowed once again. His thin lips were pressed together.
"Didn't I come here yesterday, Aunt?" Eldric's concerned mind prodded the lady.
"Of course you didn't, or maybe you returned when I went to the post office. They told me my son's letter would come, but it didn't."
Eldric was bothered by what he had just heard. He actually preferred the café across the street, in the heart of Vielist. Since he intentionally left school three months ago, he decided to make a living through this café. Serving the hot, fragrant coffee beverages brought him genuine happiness. He would be assigned to whatever table they wished, from table number one to the existing five, accommodating their various requests. After the long day's end, when the last customer bid farewell with a smile, Eldric would be found washing the crockery. He was content with the Reichsmark in his pocket, doing exactly what he wanted.
The woman behind him was the owner of Ruhiges Café, Amala Schult. After her son went to the Soviet Union as cannon fodder, she was all alone. When her forlorn eyes caught sight of Eldric in Vielist's icy winter, his desolate expression resonated with her. She offered him the job of serving tables. The customers who made it a daily routine to visit this little cafe at least once a day came to see Amala's son in Eldric. Her weathered face had finally found something to light it up.
"This means I wasn't here all day, right, Aunt Amala?" Eldric inquired curiously.
"No, you weren't, dear." Amala seemed genuinely confused by his strange question.
"How could you not remember me not being here? Are you feeling alright, Eldric, my boy?"
Eldric should have asked her more about yesterday, but this would only complicate things for her. She herself was grappling with her melancholy quandary.
"Um... I might be forgetting things a little. Did you find out why I didn't come?"
That was the question Eldric should have asked without tying himself in knots. As their conversation meandered, a rugged gentleman took a seat at one of the five tables, engrossed in a German newspaper. He crossed his legs, his pointed spectacles hanging from his ears as he read. As soon as the order was taken, Amala wasted no time in preparing coffee. With the increasing number of customers during Vielist's busiest hour, their conversation was temporarily interrupted. This left Eldric with nothing but yesterday's concerns.
"Well, I heard you were at that school down the valley. I am pleased to know that you have decided to continue your studies. This devastated country is counting on you, young man!" Amala was ecstatic to say that after the last customer left in the morning interval.
" ...but the way you showed up today and you came back to work again, what just happened to you, Eldric boy?"
Eldric was listening to everything his Aunt Amala said. He was at a loss for words to respond.