Yet she also feared the light. It was too hard to reveal this. She buried it deep in shame, and so did those closest to her. When she was reunited with her mother in the labour camp, lying tearful with relief in the hollow of her arms, and her mother stroked her bald head, bald because she had cut off her hair in a bid to make the officers avoid her, she briefly told her. Her mother could not cope with it, and they said nothing more.
She told a priest, since she still hoped to be a nun, but he deflected her as something sullied. When she met Tom Ruff, the British soldier who became her husband, she spoke of it once, then never again. She longed to scream out the details of what had been done to her, but instead she was expected to get on with life as though nothing had. In a way, she succeeded. She and Tom married and moved happily to Adelaide. She did not want sex, but bore it, and after surgery to mend her she had her daughters. Their house was full of music, and she sang in choirs. When Tom became an invalid, her faith helped her bear that. Outwardly she was smiling and serene. Inside was another story.
All kinds of things reminded her, but especially the handkerchief in the drawer. A woman at the camp had passed it to her as she left for Semarang, and on the veranda of the brothelone evening, as they waited for that dreaded dark, she had asked the six other girls to sign it. Miep, Gerda, Els, Annie, Betty and Lies had written their names in pencil and she had sewn over them. Sometimes she would hold it to her face and cry.