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Susie’s Story

by Carol Flett
An intriguing account of history, romance, and a father’s love, based on the true story of a young girl growing up in the nineteen-twenties in revolution torn Soviet Russia
Susie was a terrific story-teller. But who would have thought such a wonderful talent could get her into so much trouble?
In Susie’s Story, Susie is blessed with a loving Papa, a peaceful Mennonite home and close family friends. (Even the Remple’s boy, Josh, wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t such a terrible tease.) But the revolution threatens to shatter the peace of their home and settlement by taking away their livestock and grain and causing starvation. Susie stores up resentment and begins to hate the Russian people.
Susie’s Story is about the love and compassion of a Heavenly Father, and the growing relationship between a boy and a girl. Although Susie’s Story is written for young adults, it has great appeal to readers of all ages.

Susie's Story Preview

Chapter 1

The Lie

Susie shifted uncomfortably in the hush of the overcrowded room. She felt so alone. Oh, if only she could take a big eraser and rub out yesterday completely.

Moscow had been an exciting place these last three months, but now -- her shoulders sagged under the weight of her conscience.

She glanced around the room. These people had become their close friends; Mennonites, bonded by one faith, waiting with one goal. Here they were clustered together in this drafty Russian cottage. And now because of her, they were fraught with one common fear.

The women and children were piled onto the quilted bed mats with many more spilling onto the cold plank floor. The men were huddled around a rough wooden table. A few had squeezed onto the two benches, while others stood around them. They were speaking in subdued tones. The occasional phrase that reached her made Susie more uncomfortable.

“… have discovered you.”

“… must spend the night hidden.”

“… endangering the rest of us.”

Then Papa was speaking trying to calm them, assuring them that God was in control.

Josh was standing there with the men. He turned, his hands still on his hips, and his deep blue eyes locked on hers. Those eyes weren’t really mocking her; they just looked sort of disappointed, challenging. Susie looked away quickly, and turned to watch the women as they held their children close.

Oh, it was so foolish! This situation was all her fault. How she wished she could put an end to the whole ordeal! If only she had the courage! But it was just too late. The situation had progressed too far.

How could she have known that one small lie would have caused such a stir? And yet, she acknowledged to herself, she should have known. Past experience should have taught her that her horrid tongue would get her in trouble if she let it. In fact her very first memory should have sealed in her the importance of telling the truth. It had been twelve years ago when she was only three but every detail was still as vivid as yesterday. She willed her mind to drift back, away from the turmoil of the present to linger on the innocent security of the past.

. . . . .

Susie bounced from her Papa's lap over to Katja. "The Weinachtsmann is coming tonight, Katja. See the pretty plates. One plate for Katja and one plate for Susie."

She dashed over to the plank table, reached up, took a plate down, and carried it to her sister. "See, this is Katja's plate.”

Katja’s alert eyes were caught by the bright, hand painted flowers on the plate and she reached up to grab it, but Susie lifted it high, rescuing it just in time to prevent an accident.

"No, no, Katja, the plate goes on the table, like this." She trotted over and returned the plate to its proper place. "Tonight, the Weinachtsmann comes. Tomorrow, Katja's and Susie's plates will be filled with candies. Katja like candy?" She turned to her father. "Papa, tell Katja about the Weinachtsmann."

Papa shook his head and his eyes laughed, "It seems to me, Suschen, you have done a very good job of that, yourself. If our deaf Katja could hear, even a little, she would by this time know all there is to know about the Weinachtsmann. And now, my little Quachbase (chatter box), it is time for two little girls to go to sleep so that the Weinachtsmann has time to come."

Susie dragged Papa by the hand; "Come Papa. Come tell Susie a story."

Katja and Susie were soon curled up together on their cosy feather bed. Papa sat on the edge of his bed across from them. He spoke softly, rehearsing a favourite Bible story, and within minutes Susie's eyelids were fluttering heavily.

Papa’s voice quieted, but the sound of Mama bustling about was like a gentle lullaby. Then Mama was speaking.

"Do you think Susie will be satisfied with her Christmas this year? She has asked so many questions about the Weinachtsmann that she has me quite flustered at times."

Papa was chuckling, "Is there anything that our inquisitive little Quachbase does not ask questions about? But she will be delighted with everything tomorrow; you will see.” Susie drifted contentedly into dreamland.

As the dawn of Christmas day crept softly into the tiny sod house, Susie stirred to the familiar sound of Mama starting the fire in the brick wood stove. She opened her eyes and Papa reached over, lifted her up, and tucked her in bed beside him. He started to tell her a story, but story time had yielded some of its attraction for her this morning, and no longer held her spellbound.

"Papa," she interrupted, a delicate finger pointing to the heaping plate on the table, "what's that?"

"You will see soon enough, my Suschen," he said. "Soon our house will be warm, and then you and Katja may go and see what the Weinachtsmann has put on your plate."

He tried to continue the story but Susie's entire imagination was revolving around a plate filled with tantalizing treats.

"Papa," she whispered, "I have'ta go potty."

"Can you not wait?" he asked.

She shook her head vigorously, and scuttled out from his arms, throwing the quilted covers wide, and landing lightly on the cold dirt floor. She trotted off across the room, used the white enamel potty quickly and then turned back to Papa. As she brushed past the treasure laden table eager fingers reached out and returned in the shape of a bulging fist. She sped quickly toward the bed, and bounced up beside Papa.

"What have you got in your hand?" Papa asked.

"Nothing," she lied brightly. Papa looked at her strangely and she began to feel uneasy.

Papa had always been her dearest friend, giving hours of his precious time, spinning delightful parables that never, until now, had failed to enthral her. His eyes usually held such a twinkle in them that they reminded her of the pretty blue sparks that flew from Grospapa's welding machine, the sparks that Papa said were dangerous, and could start a roaring fire. She squirmed at the thought of a possible blaze now.

Hesitantly she reached her free hand to twiddle the long handles of his bright copper-gold moustache, but it did not bring the softening expression she sought. Instead, as she watched, two pleats formed, starting at the inside of his bushy eyebrows, and rising almost to his sleek copper hair. She ran a timid finger along the puffy mound between the two wrinkles, but the creases remained.

She tried to snuggle up to Papa's broad shoulder, the one that had carried all of her infant heartaches, but this morning, the steel strength gave her no assurance, or comfort. Susie’s hands were beginning to sweat, and in her right hand, the candy was becoming horribly sticky. "Tell me another story," she begged.

Papa began to speak but his voice was quiet, almost sad, and yet it seemed oh, so gentle. "Yes, Suschen, I will tell you a story. I will tell you the story of a little girl with pretty green eyes and lovely dark auburn hair.

"It was Christmas time in Siberia, and this little girl was very excited. She had put her special plate out the night before for the Weinachtsmann to fill. Sure enough, the next morning, there were some colourful sugary treats piled high, alluring her. Oh how the little girl ached to get up and take one! It was just too much to expect such young child to stay patiently in bed with her Papa until the house became warm. Tell me Suschen, what do you think that little girl did?"

Susie's eyes locked on her father’s then shifted to gaze at the offending hand. The prize in it had lost its value. Slowly, she loosened her fingers, showing a sticky palm, and one messy Christmas candy. Before Papa knew what was happening, the gooey thing was plopped into his large hand. Susie's eyes again sought her father's. Papa had the strangest expression on his face, and his moustache was twitching. He lay there silently, the candy held out gingerly in an open palm.

Finally he spoke. "Did this candy give you any happiness while it was in your hand, Suschen?"

She sat up and shook her head, her braids waving to and fro. "It feeled sticky."

Papa grimaced; he seemed to understand the feeling. "And the lie that you told to Papa, how did that feel?"

Her answer was almost a whisper. "It feeled bad too."

"And does it feel better now to have let go of the sticky candy, and to have confessed the lie?"

Her head bobbed up and down, and a sunshine smile broke out from inside of her. "And Papa still loves his Suschen?” she encouraged.

Papa smiled. "Yes, my Liebchen, Papa loves you and forgives you for lying to him.

"Now,” Papa asked, “would you like to have this candy?" Susie looked at him in wonder and then looked back at her sticky fingers.

Papa laughed. "This time we will put it in your mouth."

With eyes still on Papa, she opened her mouth wide to receive the candy. It had a wonderful taste, and Papa did seem relieved to be rid of it.

"Shall Papa tell you a secret, Schene Doch, (fine daughter)? I believe you have received an extra special present this year. You have learned a very important lesson on the value of always telling the truth. You will often be tempted to try to fool Mama or Papa, but whenever you are tempted, remember how it felt to hold that sticky candy and have to lie to Papa. It may save you many unhappy times as you grow older."

"Yes, Papa," she answered lightly, and wrapped her sticky hand around him in a big grateful hug; and this time, the arms that went around her in return, had all the warmth and gentleness in them that her young heart could contain.

Life’s problems were so easily solved back then, but Susie’s thoughts were brought back to the present by the mention of her name. Papa was still talking to the men.

“Susie has always had an unhealthy distaste for the Russian people. It was only natural for the direct contact with those men to cause my daughter such agitation. They may have been there on a perfectly harmless errand. Do you not think our reaction may be too extreme?”

Susie held her breath. Papa was starting to calm down. Would all this blow over? But no, there was brother Remple speaking of precautions again. Had he even listened to Papa?

Oh, Papa would be so angry with her if he found out the truth. Papa did have a temper; she knew that. As a matter of fact it was Papa’s anger that had started her resenting those nasty Russians in the first place.